Legal Aid Scheme Needs Support

The launch of the Legal Aid Week in Accra Tuesday brought to public attention the dire state in which Ghana’s legal aid scheme has been left to operate, with a call on the government to expand the scheme to cover all the districts in the country to enable poor rural folks to effectively access justice through the scheme.

According to the Director of the Legal Aid Scheme, Mr Al-hassan Yahaya Seini, the Legal Aid Board had only a minimal presence in the regional capitals and none at all in the districts.

Currently, he said, the Scheme had 14 lawyers, with none being in the Upper East and Upper West regions.

These revelations paint a very bad picture of the poor access to justice in the country. The statistics are nothing to write home about, considering the fact that the country’s population is more than 24 million.

We agree with Mr Seini that justice is not the preserve of the urban population and that given the general understanding that the average person living in the rural area is poor, the need to establish structures for the delivery of legal aid services to the rural poor is overwhelmingly important.

The Daily Graphic is positive that this trend of affairs obviously affects the efficient delivery of justice in that lawyers and the courts find it extremely difficult in litigating and determining cases brought before the courts. This is coupled with the piling up of cases at the courts.

There have been instances when judges have handed cases of, especially accused persons, to lawyers just because the law requires that accused persons involved in first degree felony are provided with counsel. But we all know that the majority of such lawyers, after appearing in court on a few occasions, turn their backs on their clients and never appear again.

There are numerous cases in which the people genuinely need legal representation but they hardly find one. When they resort to the Legal Aid Scheme, the experiences that they go through are enough to put them off. They cannot even provide transport for the lawyers, most of whom are either doing their pupillage or are young at the Bar and so do not put in much effort.

Despite these challenges, Mr Seini said the scheme handled an increasing number of cases between 2007 and 2010 and that there was an ongoing discussion to raise funds and secure an increase in the budgetary allocation to the scheme.

The Daily Graphic hopes that this discussion will yield positive results. We add our voice to the call on the government to pay some attention to the scheme because justice delayed is justice denied. Every citizen of this country has the right to access efficient justice delivery without any let or hindrance.

We further appeal to not only the government but also other benevolent institutions to support the scheme with equipment and other logistics such as computers and vehicles to enable it to carry out its operations effectively in every nook and cranny of the country.

This call must be heeded and given urgent attention because any slur on our justice delivery system affects every facet of the national economy and even the international community and investors in particular see it in a bad light.

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