Overcoming the barriers to legal aid for children

CLEAR-Rights presented at the LA-Child event

Experts gathered for the LA-Child conference learnt about the CLEAR-Rights project and its initiatives to ensure that free, specialized legal aid and child-friendly justice become accessible to every child in the EU, now and in the future. 

Marcos de Barros, project coordinator at Terre des hommes Hungary, presented the CLEAR-Rights project to the international audience connecting from across the globe to the online conference “Legal aid for children in criminal proceedings”, which took place at the Child Protection Hub on 11 February. The event, part of the LA-Child project, focused on the implementation of children’s right to legal aid and aimed at providing an overview of the access to legal assistance in the European Union.

Participants learnt that children in conflict with the law face barriers to access to quality legal aid and often do not know their rights because they are not informed about them in an accessible language. It is especially true for children with disabilities, from minority groups or migrant backgrounds, adding further discrimination to vulnerable groups.

“Even when pro bono lawyers are willing to fill in gaps left by the system, they might lack ways to connect with children in need of legal assistance or support mechanisms and trainings to learn how to provide child-friendly legal aid”, de Barros added, to highlight the need for guidelines and networks.

CLEAR-Rights aims to address and overcome these gaps, by increasing the capacity of lawyers, strengthening collaboration between NGOs, pro bono networks and legal aid institutions, and establish and disseminate guidelines and legal standards.

Research on the gaps and barriers to access in focus countries will be the base for the development of guidelines and quality standards for quality legal assistance for children, and the capacity building programs for professionals.

Crucially, as de Barros stressed, all activities will be implemented in close collaboration with children, through the Child Advisory Boards set up in France, Hungary and Romania. The CABs will also play an active role to create child-friendly advocacy material to raise awareness on children’s procedural rights.

Even future practitioners will be involved, with the capacity building initiatives open not only to professionals but also to interested students:

“We want to help build the capacities of legal professionals even before they become lawyers, judges or prosecutors, supporting the construction knowledge and education needed to ensure that the children will be accessing proper child-friendly legal systems now and in the future”.

The CLEAR-Rights project is led by Terre des hommes Hungary in partnership with Terre des hommes Romania, PILnet, the Alliance of Lawyers for Human Rights (France), Defence for Children International (Belgium), Defence for Children International – ECPAT (The Netherlands). It is funded by the European Union’s Justice Programme (2014-2020).

The project is part of the Terre des hommes’s “Access to Justice” Programme, aiming at encouraging a restorative approach and ensuring that every child has access to a justice that respects their rights and that is adapted to their particular needs, avoiding discrimination.

news 2
Countries this relates to