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Lawyers hit Warsaw streets over legal aid

PR dla Zagranicy
Jo Harper 30.06.2015 17:14
Lawyers came out in their dozens on Tuesday protesting against a bill that would widen legal aid for poorer Poles.
Lawyers at the Warsaw rally on 30 June. Photo: PAP/Marcin ObaraLawyers at the Warsaw rally on 30 June. Photo: PAP/Marcin Obara

“Full professional legal assistance for all, including the poor,” was the slogan of Tuesday's protest by lawyers in Warsaw.

A recently proposed bill on legal aid fails to provide adequate standards, they argue.

The legislation would make more people eligible for legal aid by lowering financial thresholds to entry. Its critics say it would also dilute the quality of the legal assistance such people would get.

"The government has decided to spend over half a billion zlotys on amateur lawyers,” one lawyer on the march said.

An open letter to PM Ewa Kopacz, which was read out at the march's end, read: "It is very risky to leave citizens' legal protection to non-experts."

“We warn against the consequences of such a change. In our opinion, the effect will be counterproductive and Poles will pay a high price for such mistakes," the letter read.

Several dozen protestors took part in the demonstration along Ujazdowskie Avenue in central Warsaw next to the justice ministry and toward the PM’s office, where the group led by the deacon of the Warsaw lawyers’ council, Paweł Rybiński, handed the letter into the Kopacz office.

Under the bill, poorer people will be able to receive free professional legal assistance before a court case. "Until now poor persons rarely used the professional services of a barrister or legal adviser at the pre-court stage, as their costs constituted an obstacle in access to such services," the PM's office said in a statement. (jh)

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