A. Limantė: are we moving towards child-friendly legal aid?
On 23-24 June 2021, Australia’s largest legal aid agency in New South Wales, “Legal Aid NSW” convened experts in the field from all over the world to the online conference of the International Legal Aid Group. At the event entitled “Access to Justice and the Challenge of COVID 19” took part Agnė Limantė, a chief researcher at the Law Institute of the Lithuanian Centre for Social Sciences. On the second day of the conference, she gave the presentation “Legal aid for children in conflict with the law in Europe: towards child-friendly legal aid?”. In her speech, the researcher presented her insights based on the results of the project “Legal aid for children in criminal proceedings: developing and sharing best practices” (LA CHILD) implemented by her team.
At the beginning of her presentation, the researcher reviewed the latest international documents establishing the principles and guidelines for child-friendly legal aid. Agnė Limantė noted that the mandatory representation of suspected and accused children throughout the criminal proceedings is a good practice that should be strengthened in Europe and beyond it. She added: “However, children are not always aware of their rights, including the right to legal aid; therefore, there is a need for the greater dissemination of such information in clear and accessible ways.” The researcher emphasised how important is that lawyers who specialise in the area of child justice would have in-depth knowledge of child justice specifics and a profound understanding of child psychology and development. To provide legal assistance according to the age and maturity of the child, standards or professional codes of conduct should be developed in the long run, in which professionals would find recommendations on how to deal with suspected and accused children.
The International Legal Aid Group (ILAG) is a network of legal aid specialists, including Chief Executives and Managers from Legal Aid Commissions, High Ranking Civil Servants and leading academics in different countries all over the world. The mission of ILAG is to improve evidence-based policy-making in the field of poverty legal services through discussion and dialogue relating to international developments in policy and research. ILAG focuses primarily on the particular issues raised in jurisdictions, which have established highly developed systems of legal aid.
Information about the whole event and presentations of other speakers can be found here.
You can find more about the LA CHILD project led by A. Limantė here.