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This brochure contains information about
ways in which you can obtain legal aid, for example, by using the services of lawyers or
trade unions. You can also apply to any legal aid office, local municipal social service
counsellors or law centres. In other words, there are many official agencies that provide
legal advice. This folder lists the agencies, explains the differences between them and
describes the requirements, if any, which applicants have to meet.
Several links in this folder refer to other folders with more detailed information, however not all of them translated to English. We apologise for this inconvenience. If you have any questions regarding the information that you find here, do not hesitate to mail it to Advocaten.nl
Anyone can have legal problems: for example, when rental agreements are cancelled or landlords refuse to make needed repairs. There could be problems with the tax authorities or in receiving benefits, repairs to the washing machine were not done properly , a divorce is pending or, following an accident, the damages have not been reimbursed. In other words, since there are many kinds of legal problems, there is always a chance of having one personally.
Legal information may be necessary - before taking an important decision, for example, before accepting a job, borrowing money, or letting a House. In all such cases, it is good to know where to go for legal advice.
All legal aid agencies offer advice. These include legal aid societies, trade unions, lawyers and municipal social service counsellors.
There is no obligation to have legal representation in magistrates" courts. Individuals may represent themselves. They may also be represented by persons with legal training, such as process-servers.
Legal representation is mandatory in the law courts and in the Netherlands Supreme Court. otherwise, magistrates will not accept the case.
Administrative law applies to governmental decisions, for example, relating to building permits or benefit payments. A lawyer is not required for administrative law. Individuals may represent themselves.
For more complex matters, however, it would be wise to consult an expert, for example, a lawyer.
In principle, criminal law does not require legal representation.
Defendants may defend themselves. lawyers are automatically assigned to persons taken into custody. Defendants are free to change lawyers, if they wish.
Those who face criminal charges but are not in custody, should consult a lawyer themselves, if they - wish.
There are legal aid societies in some fifty municipalities
in the Netherlands.
There is a list of these societies here
Lawyers representing legal aid societies will provide information, legal advice and assistance with legal proceedings. They specialise in matters relating to labour, job dismissal, benefits, rent and residence permits (alien affairs).
Free Consultation Hours
Legal aid societies hold free consultation hours.
Anyone can obtain advice there, regardless of their income level. During the first such consultation, the society" s lawyer makes individual case appraisals.
Those whose incomes meet legally established requirements, whose applications otherwise meet the conditions, are eligible for legal aid. There are 'secondary consultations" for simple cases that can be resolved quickly. Staff at any legal aid society can handle these. Clients pay only a small fee. The agency can then devote two hours to individual cases.
The fee in 2000 is NLG 50 for the first two hours.
If more time is required, the agency will submit a request for assignment. This is discussed below under the heading 'Assignments". This enables legal aid society lawyers to devote more time to individual cases.
Applicants with sufficient income must pay for legal aid themselves,
Please see the information on "Eigen Bijdrage" for maximum income levels.
The folder entitled 'Legal Aid Societies are for everyone" contains additional information about services offered by legal aid societies.
For legal assistance, most people consult lawyers, whether they -r are seeking advice or starting legal proceedings, As stated above, this is required under civil law in law courts, the Court of Justice and the Supreme Court- Lawyers may also be consulted in other cases (before magistrates" courts, criminal cases or those involving administrative law). It is usually wise to be represented by a lawyer especially - if the other party is so represented.
There are Lawyers and Lawyers
Lawyers often specialise in certain types of cases. One handles criminal cases; the other knows every thing about insurance or benefits. Legal aid societies can sometimes recommend a particular lawyer for a particular case. Information is also available from the Dutch Bar Society (Nederlande Orde van Advocaten), an organisation to which all lawyers in the Netherlands belong. If that fails to prove helpful, those in need of advice can Seek help from legal offices.
The First Consultation
Certain lawyers offer free introductory consultations. The first consultation lasts about thirty minutes. The lawyer will examine the client's case and recommend steps to be taken. Those interested should ask in advance whether the lawyer charges for the first consultation.
Existing recommended hourly fees for lawyers are NLG 305. For many people, such fees present problems. Those who wish to start or must face legal proceedings, but cannot pay for them (completely), maybe entitled to claim government financed legal aid. That means that the government pays part of the legal fees. Among other things, this depends on individual income and financial means. This is discussed in more detail under the heading 'Government financed Legal Aid"
People with high incomes or financial means who do not qualify for. It is also possible to take out legal aid insurance. The insurance pays lawyers" fees where legal problems are involved. There may be a first risk clause. Additional information about legal aid insurance can be found under the heading 'Legal Aid Insurance".
The brochures entitled 'The Cost of Legal Proceedings" and 'Lawyers" Fees" contain additional information about fees charged by lawyers.
Each trade union has its own legal service.
Trade union members (FNV" CNV , etc.) may ask their unions for legal government-financed legal aid must pay the legal fees themselves information and advice.
They also help in solving employment conflicts and problems relating to social security (benefits]. There is no charge for these Services to trade union members.
Law centres are for everyone. They offer information and advice. They are staffed by volunteers, often law students.
Many municipalities employ social service counsellors. Social service counsellors can answer various questions relating to social or societal matters. They also handle legal questions relating to housing, social security, taxes, etc. and personal financial problems. There is no charge for such advice.
Process servers also provide legal aid. This is especially true when it involves unpaid bills. Process-servers can also provide other kinds of advice (usually financial). They can represent clients in civil proceedings before a magistrate's court, where legal representation is not required by law.
The Consumers" Association provides free legal advice
to its members.
The association makes recommendations in writing or by telephone about 'consumer affairs". These are matters relating to purchase or hire of products and services. Members can arrange personal interviews with representatives of the Consumers" association.
Although the Consumers" Association does not provide individual help for proceedings. it mediates conflicts, for example, with manufacturers, suppliers and service companies. This is a Service for members only. There is no charge for the mediation service.
Members of the Royal Dutch" Touring Club receive free legal advice relating to traffic, recreation and tourism. There is no membership requirement for advice following a serious traffic accident.
The Royal Dutch Touring Club provides full, free legal aid for legal problems abroad not involving private means of transport. Examples include pedestrian, bus, air passenger or skiing accidents. Those in possession of circular letters of credit also get free legal aid relating to travel abroad with private means of transport.
The Royal Dutch Touring Club offers various types of domestic legal aid insurance. Incidental representation on a fee basis is possible without such insurance. In such cases, efforts will be made to recover fees from the other party. For additional information or to make an appointment for a free consultation, please contact the Royal Dutch Touring Club's legal affairs department.
Home owners with problems involving 'home ownership" can get advice from the Home Owner's Society, if they are members. The Home Owner's Society offers financial, technical building, legal guidance and advice. For additional information, please contact the Home Owner's Society.
Depending on applicants" household income and means, they could be eligible for government financed legal aid. This means that the government pays part of the fees. Applicants must also make a contribution. The brochure entitled 'The Cost of Legal Proceedings' explains the maximum income and means" levels relating to personal contributions. Lawyers, legal aid societies, and municipal social services will usually - have this information available.
Statement of Income and Means
To be eligible for government-financed legal aid, applicants must complete a Statement of Income and Means (abbreviated VIV in Dutch). The VIV forms can be obtained from all municipalities. The accompanying instruction sheet and folder explain exactly how to complete the forms and the type of proof required. Municipal authorities check the completed forms. They make sure they have been filled in correctly, compare the amounts shown with the proof provided by the applicant. If it has been completed correctly, the municipal employee officially stamps the form, making it a legal document.
Applicants take the officially stamped VIV document to their lawyers or legal representatives, who then add information relating to the applicant's case and send the form to the Legal Aid Council.
Based on information relating to applicants" income and means, and the details of individual cases, the Legal Aid Council decides who will be eligible for government financed legal aid. Once they become eligible, lawyers are assigned to handle the applicants" cases. These are called assignments.
In the Netherlands there are five Legal Aid Councils. Each council represents a specific area. Their addresses are on the last page of this brochure.
The Legal Aid Council rechecks the information on the VIV forms. They do so by reviewing applicants" national insurance numbers. This means that the council is privy to information from the following agencies:
If the information submitted is not accurate, the application will be rejected and the assignment cancelled. In such cases, applicants must then pay any existing legal aid fees themselves.
Lawyers or employees of legal aid societies must apply for
assignments to the Legal Aid council. The Council then decides:
whether the nature of the problem requires legal aid
whether based on income and financial means, applicants are eligible for government-financed legal aid.
Requirements for Applicants
To become eligible for assignments, applicants must meet the following requirements:
The Legal Aid Council's Ruling
The Council advises applicants and their lawyers of its ruling concerning applications. The ruling states the income and means allowed for. It also sets the amount of the individual applicant's own contribution. Applicants must always make a financial contribution.
The amount of the contribution depends on the individual applicants ' income and means'. The folder entitled 'The Cost of Legal Proceedings" contains information about individual contribution levels. Individual contributions must be paid to the applicant's lawyer or to the legal aid society
At the end of the proceedings, applicants" lawyers receive payment from the government. Excepting individual contributions, applicants pay no other lawyer's fees.
Occasionally applicants receive conditional assignments from the Legal Aid Council. This could be because the individual applicant's financial position is not entirely clear, or because applicants may receive so much money that, in retrospect, they would not qualify for government-financed legal aid. Such assignments clearly show whether they are conditional.
Applicants who receive conditional assignments, whose income and means qualify them retrospectively for government financed legal aid, must pay their lawyers" fees themselves.
Taking Exception to Rulings of the Legal Aid Council
Applicants who take exception to rulings of the Legal Aid Council (for example. because an individual application was turned down or an applicant thinks the individual contribution is too high) may lodge complaints. The ruling of the Legal Aid Council contains a description of how this works.
16. Legal Aid Insurance
Those with incomes and means above the established levels are not eligible for government financed legal aid. However, they could consider taking out legal aid insurance. Those with relatively" high incomes that meet the established limits may also benefit from taking out legal aid insurance. The maximum contribution, for example, is currently (1995) NLG 935 for net incomes of NLG 3,000, for persons who are married or cohabiting. This amount generally goes up annually.
Insurance companies offer legal aid policies. When legal problems arise, policy holders get advice from the insurance companies, legal advisers or, in consultation with the company may use outside experts, for example, lawyers or process-servers. The company pay the policy holder's legal bills. Normally, the policy is limited to a maximum amount. Individual insurance companies differ on conditions (which legal problems are which are not covered) , the maximum insured amount and the premiums (on average between NLG 200 and NLG 300 per year]. Please contact the Consumers" Association or an insurance company for additional information.
Those who want additional information or have questions should contact a legal aid society, a lawyer or the Legal Aid Council. The addresses are here (link). Interested persons can also contact the Service information department of the Ministry of Justice, PO Box 20301, 25OO EH The Hague, telephone: 070370 68 50 (for information only).