July 2014

Eighteen months ago, the countries of the world agreed at the United Nations that legal aid is “an essential element of a fair, humane and efficient criminal justice system”. They declared it “a foundation for the enjoyment of other rights, including the right to a fair trial,” as well as “an important safeguard that ensures fundamental fairness and public trust in the criminal justice process.”

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It’s the biggest change in criminal justice procedure in 30 years – and you probably haven’t heard about it. From now on suspects detained at a Garda station are entitled to have solicitors present during their periods of questioning.

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The European Commission issued a proposal that would strengthen safeguards of children in the criminal justice systems. Among key proposals are a mandatory assistance by a lawyer and pre-trial detention separate from adults if a child must remain detained.

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The Soros Foundation-Moldova is seeking an international expert to lead an assessment on the functionality of the current eligibility criteria and standards for legal aid in Moldova. The consultancy should be delivered during the period September – October 2014, for a maximum of 10 working days, including one visit to Moldova of up to 3 working days. Deadline: 30 July 2014, 6 pm EET.

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The Johannesburg Declaration on the importance of advancing implementation of the UN Principals and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems (that were adopted at the UN General Assembly in 2012) was endorsed at the global conference on legal aid held in Johannesburg, South Africa on June 26, 2014. The Declaration also contains an action plan that should be supported and enforced by respective criminal justice actors.

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The Model Code of Conduct for Legal Aid Lawyers in Criminal Cases was drafted by members of the Legal Aid Reformers Network through a number of meetings in Chisinau, Kiev and Tbilisi in 2013, which were convened by the Open Society Justice Initiative.

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