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General News of Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Source: GNA

Legal Aid Scheme urged to seek for further support

Accra, Sept. 14, GNA - The Secretary of the Ghana Bar Association, Mr Philip Zwennes, has appealed to the Ghana Legal Aid Scheme to seek assistance from legal chambers to enable the Scheme to carry out its mandate of ensuring delivery of justice to the poor and marginalized.

Mr Zweness said in view of the important function of the Scheme in justice delivery and the absence of lawyers to handle and defend the vulnerable, there was the need to establish structures to enable the people to access justice easily.

He said this at a press briefing in Accra on Tuesday to announce the maiden celebration of the Legal Aid Week" scheduled for Accra.

The celebration, which is slated for October 3-9, is to create awareness about the activities of the Legal Aid Scheme and its services to the public.

The event, which is on the theme:Empowering the vulnerable in society through legal aid", is to strengthen collaboration among organizations providing legal aid services as well as encourage pro bono services among lawyers and law students.

Mr Zwennes appealed to law chambers to support the Scheme and suggested that Alternative Dispute Resolution should be made part of the Legal Aid Scheme.

This will reduce cases at the courts and curb delays and frustrations of clients.

He said since most of the poor are unable to access justice and with the courts choked with cases while many of them continue to drag for years, there was the need for more assistance to the Scheme to assist litigants in arriving at compromises.

Mr Al-Hassan Yahaya Seini, the Director of Legal Aid Scheme, said out of the 24 million Ghanaians, less than 5,000 are lawyers and they are mainly located in Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi including those on the bench, the bar and non-practitioners.

He said the Scheme has only 14 lawyers with none in the Upper East and West regions as well as 18 mediators serving as the frontline to provide for the justice needs of the poor.

Mr Seini said the evolution of alternative means of resolving disputes, which has now attainted statutory status in the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) law, provides a greater opportunity to establish a system of paralegals in public and private services without further delay.

He said the vast majority of Ghanaians participating in formal justice proceedings would require the assistance of people especially lawyers who are skilled in that exercise.

Mr Seini said Justice, like food, shelter, education and health is properly viewed as a requirement for societal survival" and must be protected and given the needed attention.

He said despite the challenges, the Scheme handled 6,959 cases in 2007, 6,212 in 2008, 6,612 in 2009 and 7,293 in 2010 to reduce the work load of cases in the traditional courts.