Proposals to make justice more affordable could cost over €200 million

Proposals to make justice more affordable could cost over €200 million
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Proposals by opposition parties to make access to legal help more affordable for poorer people could cost up to €278 million, according to the Court of Auditors.

The Court was asked to cost three proposals, by the French-speaking socialist PS, by the green coalition Ecolo-Groen and by the far-left French-speaking PTB.

At present, access to legal advice is free for anyone earning less than €1,026 a month for a single person or €1,317 for a head of household (after deductions).

For a single person earning between €1,026 and €1,317 or a head of household earning between €1,317 and €1,607 a month, a partial fee is charged.

However since those levels were fixed by law, the cost of justice has gone up, both through increases in court fees, and by the imposition of VAT on lawyers’ fees.

The PS is proposing a new bill which would raise the maximum income levels, as well as typing court fees to the person’s ability to pay. The other two parties are proposing slightly different changes in the form of amendments.

According to the Court of Auditors, the most basic proposal, from the PS, would cost the federal budget €177 million a year (last year’s cost, as a baseline, was €106 million).

The more generous proposal from Ecolo-Groen would cost the budget €209 million.

Meanwhile the most generous of all, from the PTB, would cost €278 million. That proposal includes figures, and would raise the level at which a person become eligible for free legal representation to €2,341 a month for a head of household.

The PS has responded to the costing, and suggested it has a number of intermediate plans that could be considered, valued at between €41 million and €106 million.

Alan Hope

The Brussels Times

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