The Aarhus Convention requires countries to set up a system ensuring effective access to justice without barriers of any kind, especially financial.

In Belgium, legal aid exists at two levels: primary legal aid and secondary legal aid.

Primary legal aid: the first consultation

Anyone, regardless of his financial situation, may receive initial practical information, legal advice or be referred to a specialised organisation free of charge.

This first consultation is provided by the legal offices organised in the law courts, the justices of the peace, the houses of law, certain administrative bodies of the communes, public welfare centres (known as CPAS in French) or non profit organisations that are registered as providing legal services. All you need to do is to turn up for a consultation with your file.

Secondary legal aid: legal assistance

Should the first consultation lead to the conclusion that it would be appropriate or necessary to start an action, assistance by a lawyer is often recommended - whether that action is a legal letter, mediation or a legal appeal. In this case too, there should be no financial barriers discouraging a private individual from taking action.
Previously known as "pro Deo assistance", this aid is granted entirely or partly free of charge depending on income levels.

Individuals meeting the income conditions required can therefore turn to the Legal aid bureau in their judicial district, who will suggest a lawyer specialised in the matter in question.

More detailed information is available on the FPS Justice website.