GBA committed to establishing efficient Legal Aid Scheme

The Ghana Bar Association (GBA), would remain committed to the establishment of an efficient Legal Aid Scheme for people who cannot afford the services of a lawyer. Mr. Solomon Kwami Tetteh, Acting National President of the GBA who disclosed this, said members of had resolved to render voluntary services to the Scheme because they consider that as “dignified, laudable and morally satisfying”. He was speaking at the opening of the 2009-2010 Annual General Conference of the Association, on the theme: “Legal Aid, A Social Service”, in Sunyani. Mr Tetteh said that the Scheme was not adequately funded, understaffed and over-reliant on the goodwill of lawyers and free legal service by members of the Bar, which stifled the ability of lawyers to effectively discharge their constitutional mandate. He said “Article 294(1) of the 1992 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), 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 said. He said that the establishment of a viable Scheme should be considered as a national task, adding that the Bar would render free or rebated service but could not afford to offload the responsibility for legal aid from the State. Mr Tetteh called on the State to provide the needed financial assistance for the Scheme so that the Bar would augment such effort with professional support. He said problems undermining the Scheme included unamended rules of court and called for the amendment of 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 congestion in the country’s prisons, which according to her undermined the effective delivery of justice. She also noted that this allowed the average person to lose confidence in the justice delivery system and cited the spate of lynching. The Minister urged members of the Bar to offer voluntary services to the vulnerable, voiceless and poor to uphold the rule of law and tenets of the 1992 Constitution. Mr. Kwadwo Nyamekye-Marfo, Brong–Ahafo Regional Minister, called on the Bar to establish offices in the region from where clients could benefit from and access their services. He 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 if the offices were established. Mrs. Justice Georgina Theodora Wood, Chief Justice (CJ), urged members of the Association to uphold the values of the law profession. She said asked the Bar to consider its contributions to the development of the Scheme as mandatory and efforts towards the socio-economic transformation of the nation. The CJ encouraged lawyers to emulate “martyrs of the rule of law” towards the promotion of good governance, transparency and accountability in the delivery of justice.