Many of the Legal Aid Clients are Vulnerable Persons


A major part of the defendants within the legal aid system in our country are men under 29; half are unemployed; half have already been convicted at least once; 10% are under age; 16% do not speak Bulgarian, 11% are foreigners, and one in five is held on remand. Most probably, a considerable part of the defendants are illiterate, even of those who have formally completed a certain stage of school education. These data outline a number of vulnerable groups among the clients of the legal aid system, who should be the object of special protection according to the European and national legislation, and the work with them poses special requirements to the professional qualification of the defense lawyers respectively.

These are the results of a representative survey of the accounts paid by the National Legal Aid Bureau in 2015 for legal aid provided in the pre-trial phase of the criminal proceedings. The survey was carried out by a team of the Legal Programme of Open Society Institute – Sofia within Work Package 2 of the project Improving the Access to Legal Aid in the Pre-trial Phase of Criminal Proceedings in Bulgaria. The project was implemented in the period August 1, 2016 – January 31, 2018 in partnership with the National Legal Aid Bureau and Open Society Institute – Sofia, with the participation of the Dutch Legal Aid Board as an associated partner.

The complete text of the survey Assessment of the Access to Legal Aid in the Pre-trial Phase of Criminal Proceedings in Bulgaria in 2015 (in Bulgarian)

The project is funded under the 2014–2020 Justice Programme  of the European Union and one of its main objectives is to facilitate the proper application and monitoring of Directive 2013/48/EU of 22 October 2013 on the right of access to a lawyer in criminal proceedings and in European arrest warrant proceedings, and on the right to have a third party informed upon deprivation of liberty and to communicate with third persons and with consular authorities while deprived of liberty, of Directive 2016/1919/EU of 26 October 2016 on legal aid for suspects and accused persons in criminal proceedings and for requested persons in European arrest warrant proceedings, as well as of Commission Recommendation 2013/С378/03 of 27 November 2013 on the right to legal aid for suspects or accused persons in criminal proceedings, and of Commission Recommendation 2013/С378/02 of 27 November 2013 on procedural safeguards for vulnerable persons suspected or accused in criminal proceedings.