Andros Pelecanos: The Cyprus Bar Association (CBA) was first established in 1960 with the major objective being to represent the interests and assist its members of whom there are over 2000 registered practising advocates. It is a full member of the Council and Bars of the European Union, the International Bar Association, the Commonwealth Lawyers Association, the Mediterranean Bar Association and the Union of the Balkan Bar Associates.
As a result of British rule from 1878 until 1960, the English legal system was introduced in Cyprus, with the adoption of the Criminal Code, the Contract Law and the Civil Wrongs Law.
Even after independence in 1960, the fundamental areas of law (contract; tort; company; crime etc.) remain based on the respective English laws. However, family and administrative law follow the Greek system and civil rights against public bodies are protected more widely than under English law.
Land law and all statutes regulating business matters and procedure are still based upon the English system but have been adapted and improved to suit the needs of Cyprus.
The major difference between the English and Cypriot legal systems is that Cyprus has a written constitution. This is the supreme law of the country, as in all EU member states. Human rights under the Constitution are based on the European Convention of Human Rights with its application based on the principles of US and European Constitutional Law.
Cyprus also inherited the presumption of innocence from the UK, along with the right to a fair trial and the right to appeal. Most criminal and civil cases initially take place in District Courts and any appeals are heard by the Supreme Court. There are also a number of specialist courts that deal with Administrative Law, Family Law, Maritime Law, Employment, Landlord & Tenant Law and Military Law. Although they all adhere to their own rules and procedures, all decisions are appealed to the Supreme Court.
Upon Cyprus becoming a full member of the European Union (EU) in 2004, all Cyprus Law is superseded by European Law in case of any conflict.
Unlike lawyers in the UK, there are no solicitors and barristers. Instead the profession is fused, with a Cypriot lawyer fulfilling both roles. Lawyers, or advocates as they are known in Cyprus, must hold a law degree from a recognised university. They are then required to complete a year of training under the guidance of an experienced lawyer (over 5 years’ experience) and pass the Cyprus Bar exams. Although then ready to begin practicing in their chosen area of law, newly qualified lawyers must complete 2 years before being allowed to appear before the Supreme Court.
Justice in Cyprus is of a very high standard and access to the courts is freely available to everyone.