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The LAS as an institution in Ghana takes its antecedents from the recognition by Judges who operated the criminal assizes, before independence, that the absence of defence counsel in the matters that came before them adversely affected the administration of justice. Lawyers were assigned cases as a social responsibility to defend accused persons in the criminal sessions. These lawyers handled these cases without charging the otherwise due fees.


This practice of assigning briefs to members of the Bar continued after independence. In this regard, the Courts Act, 1971 (Act 372) made adequate and ample provision for the assignment of briefs. Members of the Bar were paid a stipend for accepting and conducting such briefs but many lawyers did not take the stipend.


The current Courts Act of 1993 provides that the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, the High Court or Regional Tribunal may assign a lawyer by way of legal aid to a party to proceedings before the Court or Tribunal where it appears desirable to the Court or Tribunal in the interests of justice that the party should have legal aid, and that the party is financially unable to obtain the services of a lawyer. In the case of the Circuit Court and District Court, the Court can only assign a lawyer by way of legal aid, with prior approval of the Chief Justice.

 

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