Mr Solomon Kwami Tetteh, Acting National President of the Ghana Bar Association, on Tuesday assured that the association would remain committed to the establishment of an efficient legal aid scheme, that would be available to the poor and deprived, who cannot afford the services of a lawyer.
Speaking at the opening of the 2009-2010 annual general conference of the Association, under the theme: �Legal Aid, A Social Service�, Mr Tetteh said members of the bar had resolved to render voluntary services to the legal aid scheme because they consider voluntary services to be �dignified, laudable and morally satisfying�.
He said the association has resolved to offer its services, despite the fact that the legal aid scheme was under funded, understaffed and over-reliant on the goodwill of lawyers, which stifles its ability to effectively discharge its constitutional mandate.
�Article 294(1) of the Constitution guarantees legal aid to any person who for reasonable cause is engaged in a proceeding �relating to� the Constitution. Again the legal aid scheme Act 1997(passed under the constitutional mandate in article 294), guarantees legal aid to all minimum wage earners in criminal matters or civil matters relating to landlord and tenant, insurance, inheritance with particular reference to Intestate Succession Law 1985(PNDC Law 111).
Also the maintenance of children and other civil matters as Parliament may prescribe. These are costly constitutional guarantees that must be borne from national coffers in the name of good governance�, Mr Tetteh explained.
The acting national president noted that the establishment of a viable legal aid scheme had become a pressing issue that needed to be acknowledged as a national task, adding that, the bar would do its bit by rendering free or rebated service but could not afford to offload the responsibility for legal aid from the state onto itself.
He said the state should inject the needed financial support as a partner to enable the bar association to augment such an effort with the needed professional support.
Mr Tetteh enumerated the bottlenecks and obstacles confronting the scheme, including un-amended rules of court and the need to amend some of the laws governing the administration of criminal justice.
Mrs. Betty Mould Iddrisu, Minister of Justice and Attorney�General, observed that several factors, including a weak system of policy analysis and delays in the trial of suspects on remand, was responsible for the creation of congestion in the prisons, which undermined the effective delivery of justice in the country.
She said this allowed the average person to lose confidence in the justice delivery system and cited the rising spate of lynching as an example.
The Minister urged members of the bar to come to the aid of the vulnerable and offer voluntary services for the poor and the voiceless as a means of enhancing the rule of law and upholding the tenets of the 1992 Constitution.
Mr Kwadwo Nyamekye-Marfo, Brong�Ahafo Regional Minister, called on the association to establish offices in the region from where clients could benefit from and access their services.
The Regional Minister commended the efforts of the association towards the entrenchment of democracy in the country and pledged the support of the regional coordinating council to the bar, when their offices were established.
Mrs. Justice Georgina Theodora Wood, Chief Justice, urged members of the association to uphold the values of the profession and hold it high esteem while they stayed committed to their calling.
The Chief Justice stated that it was important the scheme became their mandatory responsibility and as their quota to the socio-economic transformation of the nation.
She encouraged lawyers to follow the shining examples of martyrs of the rule of law to help promote good governance, transparency and accountability in the delivery of justice.
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