This report is by the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law.
The International Bar Association (IBA) provides assistance to the global legal community with the aim of influencing the development of law reform and promoting the highest professional standards and the rule of law throughout the world. As part of that mission, the IBA Access to Justice and Legal Aid Committee, formed in 2013, has undertaken and commissioned research into issues it sees as being of prime contemporary importance. This study, the Committee’s second project, focuses on legal aid in criminal cases and redress for victims of violence. These issues are of global importance now as the United Nations agrees on a set of Sustainable Development Goals for 2015-2030, which will include access to justice and the rule of law. The Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law conducted the research and wrote this report with contributions and comments from the Committee.
This report uses a comprehensive concept of access to justice that covers different stages of the process of obtaining a solution to civil or criminal justice problems, including: the existence of rights enshrined in laws and awareness thereof; access to both formal and informal dispute resolution mechanisms; the availability of, and access to, counsel and representation; and the ability of such mechanisms to provide fair, impartial and enforceable solutions.
The report focuses on access to justice in relation to violent criminal acts, considering the positions of both offenders and victims. Access to legal advice, assistance and representation for alleged perpetrators, and redress for victims of crimes are core elements of a justice system based on the rule of law and respect for human rights.
The report primarily adopts the definition of ‘legal aid’ employed by the UN Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems, which define legal aid as assistance provided free of charge. It slightly expands on the UN definition by including in the analysis legal services that may be provided at low cost, as part of access to justice programmes, capturing a wider range of legal support. Similarly, it adopts a broad definition of redress for victims of violence, which encompasses: economic reparation, rehabilitation, different schemes of victim involvement in criminal proceedings and mechanisms allowing victims to have an impact in sentencing.