The advocate’s workplace in court: is it possible to ensure normal conditions?
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It is no secret that Ukrainian courts have many courtrooms that do not meet the basic needs of the parties. At times, advocates are forced to work literally on their knees and have to get used to such every-day humiliation.
This problem was raised by the Bar Council of Ukraine at the meeting ace today, August 12th, in Uzhhorod) in connection with the consideration of a lawyer's appeal on violation of his professional rights.
For instance, an advocate arrived at the court hearing, where the issue of choosing a preventive measure for the client was being decided. However, there was no place in the courtroom where he could sit down at the table and lay out his working materials in the criminal case. The motion to the presiding judge to change the room was not granted by the court. Therefore, in the advocate’s opinion, the lack of proper working conditions was an obstacle to the effective defense of the client.
«When courts do not provide conditions for advocates to sit at a table and lay out their materials in order to provide professional assistance, we can talk about signs of obstruction of the practice of law and violation of advocate’s professional guarantees», - said Ihor Kolesnikov, Secretary of the Ukrainian National Bar Association, who spoke on the issue.
The participants of the meeting shared their own experiences and confirmed that the situation can be considered normal only in Kyiv City, where the courts are more or less stocked with the necessary supplies. But in the regions, the situation with advocates' workplaces is much worse. At the same time, when choosing a courtroom for a hearing, the court knows how many defendants and how many defense lawyers will be present. Therefore, they must choose the right room, including the need to provide a workplace for all advocates into consideration.
«Providing and arranging a place for an advocate in the courtroom, although purely a technical issue, directly affects the quality of everyone's right to professional legal aid guaranteed by the Constitution of Ukraine», - said Lidiya Izovitova, President UNBA and BCU. «By taking an oath, an advocate promises to honestly and conscientiously ensure the right to defense and provide legal aid in accordance with the Constitution and laws of Ukraine, and to fulfil his or her duties with high responsibility. However, one is simply precluded from providing effective defense to a client. Also, in this regard, the technical recording of complaints and motions filed by him is not carried out at all or is carried out with poor quality, which is a violation of the provisions of the Procedure Code. That is, the issue is quite important for us», - added President of UNBA, BCU.
Lyudmyla Hryn, a member of the BCU from Chernihiv region, added that the lack of a workplace is also a humiliation and a manifestation of disrespect for the legal profession. «If a prosecutor has a proper workplace, but an advocate does not, then the principle of adversariality is violated. You can't compete in unequal conditions», - she added.
«We are increasingly tolerant of violations of rights», - said Oksana Kadenko, a member of the BCU from Khmelnytsky region. «We already accept it as the norm when the accused is not allowed to sit in court with his advocate, only with the prosecutor». In her opinion, it is necessary to formulate a position on providing advocates with the necessary working conditions on an equal footing with other parties (to enable use of equipment, documents), as well as to ensure access to confidential communication with the client directly at such a workplace.
Following the discussion, the members of the BCU decided to contact the advocates in order to summarize similar cases. Based on the results of the study, it is planned to prepare an appeal to the State Judicial Administration and the High Council of Justice to organize a comprehensive solution to the problem of inadequacy of advocate’s workplaces in the courts of Ukraine.
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