On the Road to Legal Aid in Greece

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One Member Court of First Instance or the chairman of the court where the main application is to be heard. The application must be supported by certificates from various authorities evidencing poverty. If successful, the applicant (who may be unrepresented) is granted poverty benefit covering all levels of jurisdiction including enforcement of any resulting order. The court granting the benefit will determine the extent to which the litigation expenses (including the lawyer’s fees) will be covered.

 

In practice, poverty benefit is confined to a very few extremely poor litigants, and its outreach is even further reduced by the reluctance of people to be characterised as paupers. There is clearly ample scope for improvement of the system from both a legal and social point of view. With this end in view, the Athens Bar Association is pioneering a new system of legal aid for Greece. It has established a legal aid board offering guaranteed defence and assistance to defined categories of disadvantaged people (for example disabled or unemployed people, foreigners, financial and political refugees, pensioners on low incomes, and members of ethnic minorities, etc). Under the scheme, lawyers are appointed to represent citizens who fall within the above categories with the costs being met from a special account. A request has been made for Government support through relevant associations and unions, and funding of the special account. Fifteen trials have taken place under the scheme since it began in May 1997.

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