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Netherlands / Council of State / ECLI:NL:RVS:2018:3303

Appellant and the Board of Directors of the Council for Legal Aid

Deciding Body type:
National Court/Tribunal
Deciding Body:
Council of State
Type:
Decision
Decision date:
10/10/2018

Key facts of the case:

The appellant asked for free legal aid in order to appeal against a decision of the director of the Central Office on Driving Licenses, in which the director stated that the appellant’s complaint against the decision to invalidate his driving license was disallowed. The Council for Legal Aid dismissed his request, as the interest involved could be dealt by the appellant himself or with the help of someone else than a lawyer. The appellant disagrees with this and says that the case is complex in terms of facts and legal issues. There are three medical reports which differ and which are difficult to read and private drugs and alcohol abuse has been taken into account, although this has never played a role in his participation in traffic. A lawyer should defend his views. Moreover, the ECtHR entitles someone who cannot pay for a lawyer himself, to free legal aid in “the interests of justice”, according to the appellant. The Council of State does not see why the appellant cannot defend his views himself or with the help of someone else than a lawyer. As to EU law, among which Article 47 of the Charter, the Council of State acknowledges that there might have to be free legal aid for people who cannot pay a lawyer in the case of proceedings other than criminal proceedings. This is the case when the facts are difficult or the legal issues are complex. However, free legal aid need not be given without limit. Limitations may not affect the essence of the right to an effective remedy and a fair trial, the aim must be justified and the limitations should be proportionate. According to the Council of State, this is the case here. The appellant can defend himself or use someone else than a lawyer. The costs of the legal aid system also play a role here. Legal aid is not meant to help people such as the appellant. The decision not to grant him legal aid is not contrary to Article 47 of the Charter.   

Key legal question raised by the Court:

Is the appellant entitled to free legal aid when he wants to appeal against a decision to invalidate his driving license?

Outcome of the case:

The appellant is not entitled to free legal aid because his case is not complex enough. He can defend himself or use someone else than a lawyer.