Zitnanska: Legal Aid Essential for Fair Trial

Justice Minister Lucia Zitnanska (stock photo by TASR)

Bratislava/Luxembourg, October 14 (TASR) – A new directive that was approved by the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council on Thursday will entitle all EU citizens to legal aid at all stages of criminal proceedings, TASR learnt on Friday.

Ministers approved minimum rules relating to legal aid for suspects and charged persons whose personal freedom has been restricted. Legal aid should be made accessible under the European Arrest Warrant as well.

Slovak Justice Minister Lucia Zitnanska (Most-Hid) said that access to legal aid is essential for a fair trial. “By establishing the minimum conditions for providing legal aid in this directive, the goal of making justice available to all, regardless of income, could be achieved,” the Justice Ministry quoted Zitnanska as saying.

Zitnanska is also convinced that the directive will contribute towards mutual trust among EU-member states and improving cooperation in criminal matters. The European Commission’s proposal has therefore been expanded to involve the right to legal aid at all stages of criminal proceedings provided that certain conditions are met. A previous proposal spoke only of preliminary legal assistance at the initial stage of proceedings.

EU-member states will be able to review whether a person is entitled to legal assistance and whether the person has enough financial resources to pay for it. They will also review whether the provision of legal aid would be provided to the benefit of justice.