Legal aid in Europe

HiiL published a report comparing legal aid systems in nine countries: France, Germany, Belgium, England & Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Poland, the Netherlands and Finland. The report has been produced for the research institute of the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice (WODC). The report was sent to Dutch parliament on May 20, 2014, in order to inform the debate on legal aid reform. It also investigates the minimum requirements for state-financed legal aid under the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) and from case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

We found large variations in expenditure, and even higher variability in expenditures for specific problems. Differences in the complexity of procedures may explain this. These, and other data, suggest that there may be huge gains available from zooming in on the supply chain around common and frequent legal problems. It was more difficult to find data which allow comparison between countries as to the quality of legal assistance.

Legal aid is one of several ways to guarantee access to justice. The ECtHR is open to alternatives, such as simplification of procedures. The reports lists the criteria for legal aid in several categories of cases. It also shows that, and how, all countries in this research are working on legal aid reform.