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New programme to offer free legal advice for financially stressed

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The Cyprus Bar Association on Tuesday unveiled its Justice For All initiative to offer legal help to those facing financial difficulties.

Bar Association president Christos Clerides said as a first step, the initiative would give legal aid to recipients of minimum guaranteed income – both in terms of legal advice, as well as representation in court if required.

The initiative would help those in need while giving those in the legal profession the opportunity to show they care, he added.

“I believe that young lawyers should embrace the programme and join it for two reasons: first for the experience they will obtain that will help them in their future career, and second, in cases where it is necessary to go to court, they may secure part payment if they win the case,” he said.

Deputy minister for welfare Athanasia Anthousi congratulated the bar association for its programme. The decision to operate it at Nicosia Municipality’s multipurpose centre, demonstrates the choice to involve local government.

“We want the advisory centres of local authorities to be the first point of reference,” she said, noting that local government has the most direct involvement with the public.

Nicosia Mayor Constantinos Yiorkadjis said that for six years the municipality has been trying to offer services for the resolution of disputes to vulnerable groups and was therefore embracing this initiative.

“The official operation of the network Justice For All marks the provision of a service that our less-privileged co-citizens are deprived of,” he said.

The initiative of lawyers Melina Pyrgou and Alexia Kountouri to create the network and the open embrace offered by the bar association will operate as a shield protecting those individuals who will benefit and further bolster the meaning of democracy, he added.

The Cyprus Justice for All Network will be supervised by the bar association. Among the priorities, is to ensure that the programme does not operate in a way that deprives any lawyer of work.

Only individuals, recipients of the minimum guaranteed income will be eligible, with the aim of helping those who are not currently clients of a lawyer as they cannot pay the fee.

It will launch operations on September 1 with walk-in centres and a network of volunteer lawyers who wish to offer their services pro bono within the programme.

The walk-in centres will be staffed with one lawyer on a permanent basis while lawyers will also accept help from final year law students. To this end, the network plans to sign cooperation agreements with the University of Cyprus and private universities operating here.

The centres will be easily accessible, and the only requirement will be checking individuals are eligible. With the help of the deputy ministry of welfare, there will be checks to see whether the individual is a recipient of minimum guaranteed income. A second precondition is to ensure that the legal area involved is not covered by state provided legal aid.

At the centres, individuals will be given initial legal advice on their rights, whether court or other dispute resolution procedures are needed and whether representation is required by a lawyer. The individual will then be referred to a lawyer who handles such disputes, based on the list of volunteer lawyers.

A register of lawyers wishing to offer pro bono services through the programme and a register of law firms who encourage or facilitate their lawyers to participate and contribute to the effort will also be drawn up.

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