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17.07.2008

State-funded legal aid leaves just about everything to be desired

   

According to the head of the International Renaissance Foundation’s Rule of Law programme, Roman Romanov, the majority of Ukrainians are seriously worried about legal defencelessness. Mr Roman was presenting the results of a sociological study carried out with IRF support at a press conference in Kyiv on Wednesday. The study monitored the system of legal aid in the Kharkiv region.  “Only 1.2% of those surveyed said that the situation with regard to legal protection had significantly improved over the last three years, while 20.9% answered that it had become considerably worse”, Mr Romanov noted.

Almost one in five of those asked believed that free legal aid could be more likely harmful than useful. Even among criminal investigators surveyed, 31% would refuse the services of a free lawyer and 30.6% of the population as a whole agreed with this.

Criminal proceedings in 69.5% of the cases had been without a defender or lawyer. 34% of the investigators never involved State-appointed lawyers when dealing with criminal investigations.

Roman Romanov noted also that among target groups involved in the study, it was prisoners who complained of the worst quality of free legal aid and the least satisfaction in its results. This involved in particular the work of lawyers appointed by pre-trial investigation units or the court. “The worst failings in free legal aid at the present time are lack of attention and indifference to the interests of clients which is probably a reflection of the low level of motivation of lawyers in such cases.”

72.7% of prisoners survey answered that when being detained they had not been informed at all about their rights. 40.2% refused the services of a lawyer under the influence of police officers, and in 62.4% of the cases police officers had suggested that the people facing prosecution pay a bribe to “resolve the problem”

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