In France, the system of legal aid is decentralised and the decision to provide legal aid is made by legal aid councils located at each Court. The distribution of the money to the lawyers is made by the national Bar Council and the local Bar Association. There is no merit test for the claim, which is only rejected by the legal aid Council if there is a manifest inadmissibility or a manifest unfoundness.
Talking about a Belgian legal aid system facing the sixth state reform of 2014 is a rather difficult challenge. Legal aid on the first line is done by advocates, comprehending giving legal information. A first, rather small legal advice and referral system, is now the jurisdiction of the French and Dutch Communities. It no longer belongs to the federal state. The Flemish Minister for Welfare, Public Health and Family Jo Vandeurzen (CS&V Christian Democrats) seems to situate the first line legal aid within general welfare. In his policy statement of October 16th 2015, the Minister has chosen a strong embedding of the first line legal aid within a general welfare approach.
With a team of psychologists of the University of Twente’s department of Psychology of Conflict, Risk and Safety, we are looking at individual experiences in legal conflicts, to better understand legal aid user’s interactions with innovative legal aid. Over the past three years, we have studied the needs of legal aid users in asymmetric conflicts, the effects of Rechtwijzer 1.0 in divorce conflicts, and examined effects of framing of online interventions in asymmetric conflicts.
The Finnish legal aid system is a mixed model system. Legal aid is provided by both private lawyers (solicitors and licensed legal counsel) and public legal aid attorneys from State Legal Aid Offices. Legal aid is primarily intended for those who do not have insurance for legal expenses and cannot afford to buy legal services by themselves.
The Latvian state ensured legal aid system is one of the youngest legal aid systems in Europe. It was only on June 1, 2005 that the State Ensured Legal Aid Law came into force. Its main goal is to promote the right of a natural person to a fair court protection by ensuring state-guaranteed financial support for the receipt of legal aid in civil and administrative disputes. To guarantee the successful provision of state ensured legal aid in civil and administrative cases, on January 1, 2006 a specific institution subordinated to the Ministry of Justice – Legal Aid Administration – was established.
In all our countries, there is much interest in developments in the use of technology - and this is referred to in some of the reports below. One of the consequences has been a renewed interest in international developments - since, though law may be national, technology is, of course, international. I have recently written a further annual report on law, technology and access to justice for the Legal Education Foundation (LEF) based in England.