Another model should be introduced for the FLA system, - Lidiya Izovitova

Advocacy
12:32 Tue 19.03.24 228 Reviews
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Monitoring of the current state of functioning of the legal aid system shows the existence of significant and conceptual problems in the implementation of this assistance in Ukraine.

This was emphasized by Lidiya Izovitova, the President of the Ukrainian National Bar Association, Bar Council of Ukraine, during the presentation of the UNBA Report on the current issues of the FLA system.

She noted that the FLA system has always been an object of special attention of the Bar. After all, over the past ten years, the UNBA has adopted more than seventy decisions related to the operation of this system.

The President of the UNBA explained why the Bar pays so much attention to the problems of FLA and monitors the situation.

«First of all, we observe whether citizens are properly and efficiently provided with legal aid, and secondly, whether the state provides lawyers with appropriate conditions for the realization of their independent professional activity. We also monitor whether the state ensures the professional rights of lawyers in the system and whether the independence of the bar from the state is guaranteed under the current model of the free legal aid system, - she commented. - After all, it is lawyers who provide free secondary legal aid, which includes defense, suspects, accused, detainees and arrested persons».

Free secondary legal aid is a type of state guarantee that creates equal opportunities for people to access justice. Therefore, the report actually demonstrates how the state ensures these guarantees.

Among the problems identified in the course of the monitoring, L. Izovitova mentioned:

  • interference with the legal position of an advocate by imposing its own standards and defense algorithms developed by the FLA system;
  • interference with the professional activities of the advocate by inducing the disclosure of the attorney-client privilege;
  • violation of the independence of the advocate by checking the quality, timeliness and completeness of legal aid provided by the advocates by the employees of the FLA centers, which is essentially a check of the advocate's file, which constitutes the attorney-client privilege. 

Separately, the UNBA Head highlighted the problems of the economic component of the activity, especially with the remuneration of lawyers. «In addition to the low amount of payment, there is the problem of constant delays, instability and unpredictability of payment terms, - explained L. Izovitova. - It is already mid-March and for 2.5 months of 2024, lawyers in the free legal aid system have not yet received a single penny!».

She also drew attention to the fact that budget expenditures for the free legal aid system itself are always much higher than for paying lawyers.

Thus, according to available information, in 2022, budget expenditures for the FLA system amounted to UAH 606 million. At the same time, only UAH 385 million was allocated to pay for the work of lawyers. In 2023, the situation is similar: UAH 491 million for the FLA system and UAH 311 million for the work of lawyers.

«The UNBA has repeatedly drawn attention to the inexpediency of spending significant funds from the state budget on the organization of the FLA activities, the amount of which exceeds the amount of funds that are sent directly to the persons providing this assistance, - L. Izovitova commented on the figures, noting that this state of «governance» should encourage the state to find a way out of the current situation.

«The report that is presented today demonstrates the need for legislative changes and the introduction of a different organizational model of the legal aid system, and the bar is ready to join their development», summarized the President of UNBA.

The report on the current issues of the FLA system was sent to the President, the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice, the Prosecutor General, the Ombudsman, the Chairman of the Accounting Chamber, the Council of Europe Office in Ukraine, the International Bar Association, ambassadors of European countries and other institutions and organizations.

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