The Legal Aid Commission (LAC) has assured Crime Check Foundation (CCF) of its partnership to improve on its services to enhance justice delivery in the country.
This comes at the back of the unrestricted imprisonments of many poor persons because of their inability to afford the services of lawyers to represent them in Court.
Ghana’s Legal Aid Scheme (LAS) was created in 1997 to ensure that citizens have equal access to justice by providing quality legal aid. LAC acts as a Public Defender in cases where Ghana’s socially and financially disadvantaged citizens may require legal services.
During a CCF courtesy call on the LAC, the Director of the Commission, Boateng Amoah Yaw said the Commission is striving to give out its best to serve the public but it is hindered by many challenges.
He said the building the Commission occupies as their office is for the Council for Judicial Reporting as the construction of their 11-storey office complex has been stalled since the era of Ghana’s former President John Agyekum Kufuor.
The dilapidated office structure houses both its national and Greater Accra Regional offices, a situation he said makes their working environment uncomfortable because the premises gets choked during working hours.
“One of the key problems is visibility. It was around 2006/2007 when UNDP came in to help us to set up mediation centres as pilot projects. We tested it and realized that it helped a lot. The project led to the recruitment of mediators and the establishment of three offices but after the project ended nothing has happened again. We have been unable to recruit professionals,’ he said.
He added, ‘we are the unofficial public defender but we do not have suitable people for the job. By law, we are supposed to be in every region and in every district of this country but due to lack of resources we cannot rent.’
Mr. Amoah however said the Commission is gradually stepping up its services as it is gaining independence from the Attorney General’s department.
“We needed a regime change meanwhile we were under the Attorney General’s department so our performance had a direct impact on the AG. Technically, they will not give you much money to fight them. We made a point to get our independence to become hundred percent autonomous. We have started expanding our offices adding an additional three to that of Weija Gbawe,’ he said.
He appealed to CCF to support the Commission through its advocacy.
The Executive Director of CCF, Ibrahim Oppong Kwarteng briefed Mr. Amoah on the DVLA project and sought the Legal Aid Commission’s partnership to help improve its services.
“We know the challenges the Legal Aid Commission is facing and we think that as part of the OSIWA project it will be ideal if we could partner with Legal Aid. We could work together to drum home the challenges of the Commission,’ he said.
The Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), established in 2000, is a grant-making and advocacy organization focused on equality, justice, democratic governance, human rights, and knowledge generation. It is part of the global network of Open Society Foundations spread across 37 countries around the world. He said the Assemblies outrageously fine these vagrants for committing petty offences.
By Rudolph Nandi