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14.07.2005 General News

Offer legal humanitarian services, Lawyers told


Accra, July 14, GNA - Mr Justice Felix Michael Lartey, a Supreme Court Judge, on Thursday challenged Lawyers to sacrifice and provide "legal humanitarian services" to the vulnerable.

"You must not only focus on lucrative legal cases to the detriment of the poor, illiterates and the vulnerable; monetary consideration must not be the determining factor for accepting or rejecting a case, Mr Lartey stated at the inauguration of a 12-member reconstituted Governing Board for the Legal Aid Scheme in Accra.

The Board is enjoined to develop a comprehensive legal aid programme and policy, supervise the general administration of the legal aid programme and approve the selection of lawyers for participation in the legal aid programme without prejudice to the right of an applicant to have a lawyer of his own choice.

Mr Lartey, who is the chairman of the Board, tasked Lawyers to voluntarily accept and offer one or two legal aid services within a year, as "this will help revive legal aid services and reduce the volume of cases before the Board."

Inaugurating the Board, Mr J. Ayikoi Otoo, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, underscored the call for Lawyers to offer legal humanitarian services to the vulnerable and urged them to make a persistent and deliberate effort to give fair treatment to rural folks, who were disadvantaged.

Mr Otoo tasked the Board to play the role of public defender in all criminal cases especially involving the poor and indigent, stressing "legal aid owes its existence to offering its services to about 70 per cent of Ghanaians who are deemed to be poor."

He said the Government had provided reasonable office accommodation with other incentive packages and facilities at the regions to serve as launching pad for the legal aid Lawyers.

Giving reasons for the inauguration of the reconstituted board, Mr Otoo said the Constitution enjoined the State, among other things, to direct its policy towards ensuring equality of rights, obligations and opportunities for every citizen before the law.

"For the purposes of enforcing any provision of this Constitution, a person is entitled to legal aid in connection with any proceedings relating to this Constitution if he has reasonable grounds for taking, defending, prosecuting or being a party to the proceedings.

"A person shall also be entitled to legal aid if he earns the Government minimum wage or less and desires legal representation in any criminal matter or civil matter relating to landlord and tenant, insurance, inheritance with particular reference to the Intestate Succession Law of 1985 (PNDCL.111).

Mr Otoo said the State was enjoined to promote just and reasonable access to public facilities and services by all citizens in accordance with law.

"I dare say that the Courts are public facilities and the services rendered are in the public interest and, therefore, the State has the responsibility to promote reasonable access to such places," he said.