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Legal aid

The Legal Aid Division issues legal aid including procuring legal aid abroad, legal aid in appeals in international appeals bodies, public legal aid by means of lawyers and subsidies for legal aid institutions.

Legal aid means that the State gives financial aid in order to guarantee the individual citizen’s access to the courts. Thus, the purpose of legal aid is to give persons with less strong financial standing the opportunity to conduct a case on equal terms with persons with better financial standing.

The rules in force on legal aid can be found in the Danish Administration of Justice Act, chapter 31.

In cases governed by the Danish Administration of Justice Act, section 327, the courts deal with cases on legal aid. It applies to e.g., cases in court of first instance on marriage and some cases of custody. In these cases the application form for legal aid has to be sent to the courts.

The Department of Civil Affairs, however, deals with applications for legal aid in cases of custody, where the applicant is the plaintiff in a case about changing an agreement or judgement by the Danish Act on Parental Responsibility, section 14, and 17(2).

In other cases The Department of Civil Affairs deals with applications for legal aid by section 328 of the Danish Administration of Justice Act. It is a prerequisite in order to be granted free legal aid that the applicant fulfils the financial requirements and that the applicant is found to have reasonable cause to conduct litigation.

According to section 329 the Department of Civil Affairs can also grant free legal aid when cases are of principle or in the interest of the public or when a case is of significance to the applicant’s social or occupational situation.

You can apply for legal aid by filling in a form and sending it to the Department of Civil Affairs. The form is available in Danish (PDF) and English (PDF).

Free legal aid abroad

An application for legal aid for a trial abroad is decided in the country in question by the current legislation in the said country.

Denmark has acceded to the Strasbourg Contract which pertains to procurement of applications for legal aid and legal aid between different countries. The rules in the contract are rendered in Statutory Order no. 109 of 11/11-1986 of the European Contract of 27/1/1977 on procurement of applications for legal aid.

The Department of Civil Affairs works as a central authority and forwards applications for legal aid in cases in other countries which have acceded The Strasbourg Contract. Similarly, The Department of Civil Affairs receives applications from central authorities from other countries and deals with applica­tions by the rules of the Danish Administration of Justice Act on legal aid or makes sure the applications are forwarded if they have to be dealt with in court.

The application has to be written in the official language of the country in question or in English or in French. The Department of Civil Affairs neither translates nor pays for a translation of the application.

The forms are available in Danish (PDF), in English (PDF), and in French (PDF) when applying for legal aid.

Legal aid for complaints lodged with international appeals bodies

In certain cases legal aid is granted to enable a person to complain to an international complaints board, (for example The European Court of Human Rights). An application hereon can be sent to The Department of Civil Affairs.

The rules can be found in Act no. 940 of 20/12/1999 on legal aid for lodging and conducting complaints for international complaints boards under pursuance of The European Convention on Human Rights.

Free legal aid is granted if the international complaints body has requested the legal comments of the Danish government to the complaint, cf. section 2.

Under pursuance of section 3 of the act, legal aid is granted for specific reasons, even though the government is not requested to give legal comments to the complaints. The conditions hereof are consistent with the Danish Administration of Justice Act, section 329 on legal aid.

As a starting point the case has to be of principle or of public interest or the case has to be of significant importance to the applicant’s social or occupational situation. It is a basic condition that the applicant has used the national remedies first.

Legal aid covers reasonable, necessary expenses for the conduct of a lodged complaint as well as a reasonable fee for a lawyer. Legal aid does not indicate that the State covers all expenses connected to the case.

Public free legal aid by means of a lawyer

The Legal Aid Division handles the general tasks connected to free legal aid by means of lawyers.

Grants for legal aid institutions

The division deals with applications for grants from legal aid institutions, as well as decision-making on whether an institution will be approved as entitled to a grant subsidy.