Analysing the system of ex officio appointed defense counsels
The HHC accomplished in June 2007 its Model Legal Aid Board Project aimed at testing a possible model for the reform of the Hungarian criminal legal aid system through providing defense in 120 cases under the supervision of a special board of key stakeholder representatives. The basic concept of the program was that within a certain period in each case when in terms of the Code on Criminal Procedure defense would have been otherwise mandatory and the defendant did not retain an attorney, police organs participating in the program should inform the defendant about the program. If the defendant wished to participate in the program, an urgent notification was sent to the HHC, and if the defendant met the indigence criteria set up by the program, he/she was entitled to retain the attorney contracted with the HHC, while the lawyer’s fee was paid by the HHC.
The program strove to examine the possible solutions for the structural problems concerning appointment system. By setting up and operating the system above, the HHC examined how, with what degree of efficiency and for what costs it would be possible to establish a system in which the investigating authority only indicates the necessity of appointment, but the selection and notification of the lawyer is performed by another organ. The program was also aimed to test how the efficiency of the defense is impacted if it is guaranteed that the defense counsel is present at all procedural acts where this is allowed by the Code on Criminal Procedure. The program of HHC also assessed the remuneration of defense counsels. One of the main conclusions of the program was that quality assurance is a key to improve the efficiency of Hungarian criminal legal aid.
The program was based on an agreement of cooperation beween the HHC and the Budapest Police Headquarters.
The experiences of the Model Legal Aid Board program were summarized by the study Without Defense – Recommendations for the Reform of the Hungarian Ex Officio Appointment System in Criminal Matters.
Supported by: Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs MATRA Programme, European Union. Carried out in cooperation with the Netherlands Helsinki Committee.