The new regulations on the provision of legal counsel came into effect on Tuesday.
Compiled by the Attorney General's Office, the regulations detail provisions on identifying suspects in major criminal offences that lack the financial means to appoint their own lawyers, and thus require state-sponsored legal counsel.
They were compiled in reference to Article 53 (b) of the Maldives Constitution, which states, "In serious criminal cases, the State shall provide a lawyer for an accused person who cannot afford to engage one", as well as Article 51 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which mandates the state to provide lawyers to suspects should they request one.
Per the new regulations, suspects over the age of 18 must stand accused of a major criminal offence and meet certain criterion regarding their financial situation, in order to qualify for state-sponsored legal counsel.
The regulations also detail policies on appointing defence lawyers to minors arrested under criminal accusations, in accordance with Article 50 (b) (1) of the Juvenile Justice Act, which came into effect on November 20, 2020.
In addition, the regulations specify the responsibilities of state institutions tasked with appointing defence lawyers, the procedures to be followed by relevant authorities, responsibilities of state-sponsored defence lawyers, and policies on making arrangements for such legal counsel.
With this development, the AG Office noted that the previous regulation on appointing defence lawyers has been abolished.