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Paralegals Use In Ghana, Legal Aid Scheme – Policy Dialogue

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Date: October 31, 2017          Tang Palace Hotel

 

Theme: Delivering SDG Goal 16 in Ghana: Paralegals for Increased Access to Legal Aid Services in Ghana

The program started at 9:48am with the facilitator, Mr Apraku Nketia, giving an overview of the day’s activities. The various persons present at the program then took turns to introduce themselves.

 

 

Opening Statement by Minister for Justice and Attorney General, Honorable Gloria Akuffo

gloriaThe first opening statement was given by the Honorable Attorney General and Minister for Justice Madam Gloria Akuffo. She noted that Ghana returned to democratic governance in January 1993 adopting for itself a 1992 constitution which historically has survived 25 years – with 5 presidents, 7 parliaments, 5 Chief Justices. The cardinal pillar of democracy of democracy is the rule of law, and this is guaranteed by the 1992 constitution. It is therefore not an accident that Ghana signed unto the SDGs. These SDGs seek to promote the rule of law at both the national and international levels to ensure equal access to justice for all.

Due the to the technical nature of the law both in content and procedure, persons who are not versed in the law require some technical assistance to guarantee reasonable access to and equality before the law. This assistance, however, comes at great cost. Despite the increase in the numbers of qualified lawyers in the country, the ratio of lawyer to client remains inadequate. More so, the practices of lawyers are confined to the urban and suburban parts of the country. It has, therefore, become imperative that the technical assistance regime necessary for a maximum inclusion in access to justice ought to be reviewed. It is against this backdrop that the Constitution provides for legal aid for deserving persons throughout the country. Unfortunately, however, legal assistance still remains unavailable in most parts of the country. The attempt to develop a comprehensive legal aid program for country-wide implementation has had only limited successes due to challenges ranging from lack of patronage by lawyers, lack of funding and infrastructure among others.

The use of paralegals and legal assistants has been identified as one of the means by which access to justice can be brought to the door step of people with little or no access to the justice delivery system. As a response to the challenge that legal aid is available throughout the country, the Legal Aid Bill has been drafted and is currently before cabinet for approval prior to being laid before parliament. The Bill, in dealing with the challenges of access to justice, makes provision for the participation of paralegals and legal assistants in legal aid delivery. The use of paralegals and legal assistants, however, is new to Ghana’s justice delivery system. Its introduction therefore raises a number of issues: for example, who qualifies to be a paralegal; what are the remits of a paralegal within Ghana’s jurisprudence. There is therefore the need for the development of a legal framework to regulate the work of paralegals and legal assistants, if their work is to be efficient and effective. Madam Gloria Akuffo expressed hope that at the end of the dialogue, practical ways would be identified that would shape policy through the sharing of expertise experiences of participants. She also expressed gratitude to all, and especially to UNDP for their support in promoting justice delivery in Ghana.

 

 

Opening Statement by UNDP Country Director, Mr Dominic Sam

Dominic-SamAccording to the United Nations Secretary General, the protection and promotion of the universal values of the rule of law, human rights, and democracy are ends in themselves. Rule of law and justice contribute to creating an enabling environment for achieving sustainable development. In the absence of access to justice, people are unable to have their voices heard, exercise their rights and challenge discrimination. Rule of law is therefore foundational for promoting justice, security and peace. For the UNDP, every person irrespective of their social status must have access to justice to ensure that their rights are protected. This is also a recipe for peace to the extent that injustice is reversed. It is for this reason that UNDP Ghana has partnered the Department of Justice and Legal Aid through efforts such as this dialogue which seeks to bridge the inequality gap in the country.

For decades, access to justice has been guaranteed as a basic human right at both the national and international levels. Yet, for millions of vulnerable and poor people around the world and in Ghana, the right of access to justice is not yet the reality. The world came together in January 2016 to formally adopt the SDGs that are designed to end extreme poverty, fight injustice and climate change. Goal 16 specifically recognizes the importance of legal empowerment and equal access to justice for all and how they can help achieve sustainable development. Goal 16’s emphasis on promoting the rule of law and ensuring access to justice for all is a call to action for all governments including the government of Ghana to prioritize national dialogue in forms that address the needs of the most marginalized.

Legal assistance is crucial for ensuring access to justice especially because lawyers and other legal professionals are often the only barrier between the country’s most vulnerable access to justice. The problem is further compounded by Ghana’s limited number of lawyers leading to deplorable prison conditions, wrongful convictions, and the abuse of the rights of the vulnerable. The use of paralegals has proved in several countries to be one of the strategies for ensuring effective access to justice for the poor and vulnerable. It is therefore welcomed that Ghana is exploring the possibilities of the use of paralegals by studying their use in other countries. 

 

 

 

Overview of the Sustainable Development Goal 16 and specifically Goal 16.3, its Targets and Indicators by UNDP Head of Democratic Governance Cluster and Program Specialist, Nana Chinbuah

 MG 9652The 2013 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which came into force on January 1, 2016, is a plan of action for the people, the planet and prosperity. It also seeks to strengthen universal peace through larger freedoms. It recognizes that eradicating poverty is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. Implementing the SDGs requires all countries and all stakeholders to actively collaborate in a partnership. The 17 SDGs and the 169 targets demonstrates the scale and ambition of this new universal agenda, which seeks to realize human rights of all and to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.

The SDGs are integrated and indivisible; and they also bind the three dimensions of sustainable development which are economic, social and environmental aspects of development. They also build on the MDGs so as to complete what the MDGs could not achieve. The SDGs improve on the MDGs is various aspects. It includes a specific ground-breaking goal which focuses on fostering effective, transparent, accountable and participatory governance and peacebuilding. Goal 16 commits countries to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development; providing access to justice for all and having inclusive accountable institutions at all levels. Lessons learnt from implementing the MDGs showed that the lack of progress was due to conflict, lack of rule of law and weak institutions. The SDGs seek to address these challenges through goal 16. It was clear that, for the SDGs to advance, there was need for efficient and effective public institutions that can deliver quality education and healthcare, fair economic policies and inclusive environmental protection. People everywhere need to be free of fear from all forms of violence, despite their ethnicity and faith.

Facts and figures to illustrate the relevance of Goal 16:

Corruption, bribery, theft and tax evasion costs some $1.26 trillion for developing countries per year. This amount of money could be used to lift millions out of extreme poverty for at least six years. The rate of children leaving primary school reached 50% in 2011 which account for 28.5 million children showing the impact of unstable societies on one of the major goals of the post 2016 agenda on education. The rule of law and development also have a significant interrelation and are mutually reinforcing.

In many countries, including Ghana, rule of law institutions are not adequately resourced to ensure justice and public security for all in the country. Ghana’s prisons are overcrowded, despite the operation of programs such as ‘Justice for All’ since 2007. Cost is also a major impediment to the ordinary Ghanaian seeking access to justice from the formal court system, let alone and indigent defendant. The country’s rule of law institutions including the Legal Aid Scheme are woefully under-resourced.

One may wonder if we can truly transform our world and protect every single person and not leave anyone behind. Whether or not we can truly afford to achieve the 17 goals, 169 targets and the 232 indicators under the SDGs. One may think that now may not be the time for action, but the crucial question will be what will be the cost of doing nothing. What will the world look like if no action is taken now? Where violence and social injustice are left unchecked, they will have a definite negative impact on development, affecting economic growth and resulting in longstanding grievances amongst communities. The cost of doing nothing would be much higher than the cost of acting now in implementing the SDGs. Albert Einstein has cautioned that the world would not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch and do nothing.

A key feature of the SDGs is the means of implementation, the mobilization of financial resources, capacity building and technology, not forgetting the need for information gathering and sharing. Goal 16 explicitly aims to provide access to justice for all, and makes the courts and the justice system an intricate part of the national accountability system. The courts have specific role as constitutional arbiters and as protectors of human rights. Goal 16 has 10 targets and the focus of today’s dialogue in on Goal 16, target 3 which requires us to promote the rue of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all. This target focuses on ensuring that countries have effective, fair and accessible laws and justice systems that will ensure security and protection for all, enabling meaningful avenues for redress for criminal and civil wrongdoing. Thus, strengthening the rule of law requires both the passage of just laws that respect people’s human rights and the enforcement of those laws. Capable institutions are needed to investigate, prosecute and adjudicate these crimes.

There are two indicators to SDG target 16.3: The first, 16.3.1, says it will measure the proportion of victims of violence in the previous 12 months who report their victimization to competent authorities or other officially recognized conflict resolution mechanisms. The second indicator will measure unsentenced detainees as a proportion of overall prison population. World leaders who voted to adopt the SDGs have noted that: ‘We are determined to take the bold and transformative steps which are urgently needed to shift the world into a sustainable and resilient path; we are resolved to free the human race from the tyranny of poverty and want and to heal and secure our planet; and as we embark on this collectively, we pledge that now one will be left behind.’ All must endeavor to join this collective journey to bring the needed change.

Today’s policy dialogue provides a strategy to ensure increased access to justice. It is not a new strategy as it has been used across many countries, including even Ghana. It has been used by CSOs who have made great strides by using paralegals for years. Today’s focus is on how Ghana can formally institutionalize the use of paralegals. It is imaginable that there were doctors who did not want paramedics in the system, just as there will be some lawyers who would not want paralegals in the system, hospitals however have made great progress by bringing on board paramedics. There is need to draw up a strategy that suits Ghana’s unique set of circumstances by for example defining what paralegals mean in Ghana, what they do, what the standards are, what accountability mechanisms we want, what rules they must adhere to and so on. Nana Chinbuah ended with the words of Jane Adams: true peace is not merely the absence of war; it is the presence of justice.

 

 

Presentation of an Overview of the Current state of Legal Aid in Ghana with focus on the structure, capacity, achievements and challenges by Executive Director, Legal Aid Scheme, Mr Alhassan Yahaya Seini

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For the past 30 years, Ghana has had a Legal Aid Scheme as a matter of law. The constitution provided for legal aid and defined it as something that lawyers do. It was, however realized that there are things that will not get gone if we are to wait for lawyers to do them. Along the way, the Legal Aid Scheme saw the need to get some people to help the lawyers to assist person in need of legal aid, as the litigation aspect of the lawyers’ work was taking most of their time. With the support of the UNDP, the Legal Aid Scheme undertook a three-year pilot program by using National Service Persons to help with the ADR aspect of the lawyers’ work between 2007 and 2010.  Between 2007 and 2010, the patronage of legal aid services moved from 3400 to 7500, with more than 50% of this being handled by the National Service Personnel. This encouraged the state to streamline ADR in legal aid delivery. In 2016, the Legal Aid Scheme handled 10,350 cases and only 1500 of these cases had to go to court. About 60% of the rest (8500) were resolved without going to court and the rest were pending resolution by the end of the year.

 

It is noteworthy that most of the cases mentioned in the preceding paragraph are civil cases. If there is anyone in need of legal aid services, however, it should be the person whose life and liberty are threatened over and above the person whose property is threatened. Civil matters basically deal with property, whilst criminal matters often deal with life and liberty. According to the police, there were 177,241 cases of arrests in 2016 out of which it cannot be said that all persons arrested were people of means who could access legal services when the wanted it. It is thus understandable whey Ghana continues to have crowded prisons as the first point of access to a voice through the criminal process was absent.

 

The Legal Aid Scheme presently has 22 lawyers, and one person on secondment to the AGs department. There are also about 200 private legal practitioners who provide legal aid services to person in need of legal aid. The important question is: where is the assistance located and where are the people who need it. As at June 2017, the General Legal Council has 2599 licensed lawyers, and there has been a call of another 208 since June 2017. It is not just that the number of lawyers are inadequate, but also their distribution: 2112 of the 2599 lawyers are within Accra. More so, not many lawyers are involved in the criminal justice system. Meanwhile, the constitution guarantees the right to lawyer of choice for persons who fall foul of the law. Apart from the Volta Region, almost all the lawyers are in either the national or the regional capitals under the legal aid scheme.

 

Would the Legal Scheme be able to provide what needs to be provided for all those who need it even if the Legal Aid Scheme is given all the resources they need? How can we as a country, established on the twin principles of freedom and justice, ensure that freedom and justice are increasingly delivered where they are needed? How can we get legal assistance to people who need it where they are? These are questions that need answering, especially because justice is a pillar to achieving any of the other SDGs and development generally.

 

 

Panel Discussion with presenters from Ghana, Malawi and Sierra Leone

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Sharing of Exemplary Practices: Expanding Access to Justice with Paralegals

The moderator was Samson Lardy Anyenini (a media person and legal practitioner) and the panel members were Mr Clifford Nsiska from Malawi, Mr Mohammed Korie from Sierra Leone, Simeon Koroma from Sierra Leone and Wilhelmina Mensah from Ghana.

The panel discussion focused on the sharing of experiences by persons with rich in-depth knowledge about the work of paralegals in order to guide Ghana to formulate a policy and subsequently a law that would provide for paralegal training and services and regulation in Ghana. The sharing of experiences was followed by questions from both the moderator and other participants at the program.

 

 

Brief profile of Panel Members

aaMr Clifford Nsiska, from Malawi, is a human right lawyer and the National Director of Paralegal Advisory Service Institute (PASI) – a local non-governmental organization which employs sixty-two paralegal officers working at police stations, prisons, courts and communities in order to help the poorest of the poor access justice. He worked with a local human right organization as a legal officer for over five years before joining the Penal Reform International as the regional coordinator responsible for paralegal services in eastern and Southern Africa between 2000 and 2006. While working with the Penal Reform International, he developed paralegal training courses and conducted paralegal training in Malawi and other countries, and helped countries introduce paralegal services in their countries. As a legal expert, he has also conducted evaluations of paralegal projects as well as village mediation projects in Kenya, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

 

korieMr Mohammed Korie, from Sierra Leone, is a lawyer and has worked in the last fifteen years as a legal aid service provider, monitoring the conditions of prisons; defending indigent Sierra Leoneans in both civil and criminal matters in the lower and Superior Courts of Judicature. He has also conducted Alternative Dispute Resolution (Mediation) for conflicting indigent Sierra Leoneans as well as supervising the Legal Aid Board Government of Sierra Leone’s paralegals.

 

 

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Mr Simeon Koroma is the co-founder of Timap for Justice; a pioneering organization in Sierra Leone that provides justice services through community based paralegals using mediation, advocacy, education and organizing. Simeon serves as a member of the Sierra Leone Legal Aid Board and spearheaded the campaign for the formal recognition of paralegals. He is a founding member of the African Centre of Excellence for Access to Justice and continues to play a leading role in CSO’s dialogue with government on the provision of private justice services in Sierra Leone.

 

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Madam Wilhelmina Mensah is the Regional Coordinator of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. She is a development communications professional and human rights advocate with a strong passion for the promotion and protection of human rights of citizens, especially the rights of vulnerable groups, with special attention to the rights of indigent persons in conflict with the law using strategies including paralegals.

 

 

 

 

Panel Discusion

The first to speak was Mr Clifford Nsiska from Malawi. Every person and country for that matter is looking for a practical, affordable and effective justice delivery system or scheme. Prisons are congested, the courts and the police are overwhelmed with cases because we do not have that practical, affordable and effective justice delivery system or scheme that everyone is seeking. A major reason for our inability to create that practical, affordable and effective justice delivery system or scheme is our dependence on the formal courts; which are inadequate, complicated, expensive and inaccessible to the poor. This is not to be dismissive of the valuable services that lawyers, and the formal court system provide, it is simply that, lawyers and the formal court system provide ‘Landcruiser’ or ‘Pajero’ services where ‘Bicycle’ services are needed.

 

Malawi has paralegals that can do great work to ensure that the poor are able to access justice. Malawi has paralegals who work in prisons all week: providing paralegal ‘edu-clinic’ services to prisoners. This is a session that is intended to empower prisoners by educating them on criminal law and procedure so that the prisoners can help themselves. Paralegals are useful in police stations to provide paralegal ‘edu-clinics’ to educate suspects on their rights as detained persons and to show suspects how to apply for police bail. They are also particularly useful for helping juvenile suspects link up with parental guardians, as well as screen child suspects with a view to divert them from the formal justice system. They also assist in police interviews, thereby greatly reducing the likelihood of abuse on the part of police officers. There are also toll-free numbers that can be used to contact paralegals across the country.

At the courts, paralegals provide ‘edu-clinics’ to help train witnesses. They are also able to facilitate court-user committee meetings – a meeting that seeks to promote communication, cooperation and coordination among criminal justice agencies so that all the agencies involved in the justice system work together.

 

 

Mr Simeon Koroma for Sierra Leone was the second panel member to share his experience. He started by noting that the International Conference on Primary Healthcare, Alma-Ata Declaration of September 1978 emerged as a major milestone of the 20th Century in the field of public health. This conference and Declaration identified primary healthcare (including the use of paramedics) as the key to the attainment of the goal of Health for All. It is a travesty that we are still discussing the necessity of providing legal or justice services to people who cannot afford them through the use paralegals. The discussion must move beyond whether non-lawyers should be involved in justice delivery to how they can be incorporated and regulated within the justice delivery system. What roles should non-lawyers perform and how can their activities be regulated should be the focus of our discussion.

 

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The use of paralegals come with several positives and this was evident in Sierra Leone. We need to know that paralegals are a part of a well-functioning justice system. Sierra Leone was plunged into civil war from 1991 until 2002. After the war, a key finding of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was that the cause of the war the lack of access to justice. There were very limited numbers of lawyers. Sierra Leone learned from the medical profession and what the profession did through the Alma-Ata Declaration and begun to identify communities in which paralegals could be used to complement the work of lawyers. For about four years, these paralegals were called advice officers because there was much opposition to the idea of using paralegals. It is noteworthy though that paralegals are so important for the justice system because they complement rather than replace lawyers.

 

 

In Sierra Leone, certain essentials must be considered in terms who a paralegal is: first, a paralegal is an ordinary person who has been recruited from the community in which he-she now serves; second, he/she undergoes training on the basics of law and procedure, on how government works, on paralegal skills under a scheme that is recognized by the government or the Legal Aid Board; third, they must work under the supervision of an entity that is recognized to provide paralegal services. There is nothing like freelance paralegal work in Sierra Leone. The services provided by paralegals in Sierra Leone are more general than specialized. They, for example, help persons admitted to bail in court to navigate the court system. They also help people navigate government institutions, provide community service through, for example mediation.

 

 

Mr Mohammed Korie, also from Sierra Leone, was the third panel member to share his experience. A paralegal, according to Mr Korie is a non-lawyer who has the basic knowledge and skills in the law. Following the finding of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that there was lack of access to justice, the Legal Aid Board Act of 2012 made some provision for the use of paralegals in Sierra Leone in the attempt to deal with the problem of access to justice. Mr Korie pointed out that out that the problems unlawful arrests and the criminalization of civil matters are gradually being addressed by the presence of paralegals. Paralegals are also involved with local and district courts to take of note of cases of disregard for the powers and limits placed on these courts (for example, the limits on fines that can be imposed on convicted persons). They sometimes engage with correctional centers to monitor the condition of the inmates, conduct interviews and facilitate their indictment and consequently speed up their trial. Paralegals are also involved in education in schools and communities on issues such as child marriages, domestic violence, child abuse and so on. Again, they assist with the resettlement of discharged persons – through the education of community members to accept such persons.

 

 

Madam Wilhelmina Mensah from Ghana was the only female and non-lawyer on the panel. She was the last panel member to share her experience. She started by sharing her experiences in helping wrongfully arrested suspects and the work of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative in educating such persons about court processes and courtroom manners. It is important to note that Ghana has not yet formalized a justice system that recognizes the use of paralegals. The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative started in 2008, and the attempt to use law students proved very difficult because of the nature of the timetables used by law schools or faculties. CHRI therefore decided to use anyone who was available and had some level of education. These available persons are then trained to understand among other things criminal and police procedure. Madam Wilhelmina Mensah also noted that there are lawyers who have been dedicated to helping with the work of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.

 

 

In the view of Madam Wilhelmina Mensah, Ghana has choked prisons because of what happens at the entry point. She noted CHRI’s engagements with police officers and crime officers based on the ones knowledge of the Criminal and Other Offences Act, and the relevant laws on criminal and police procedure have led to the release of over 400 innocent suspects. CHRI is involved in educating family members to stand as sureties for their arrested family members; arranging for lawyers to defend suspects; contacting the lawyers of suspects who are regularly do not show up to defend their clients; referring cases sometimes to the Labour Commission, the Legal Aid Scheme, etc.

 

Questions and Comments

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The rest of the time allocated for the panel discussion was used for questions from the moderator and other participants to the panel members as well as for comments from some participants at the program. The first question from the moderator sought to find out how paralegals work in a country where the use of paralegals is yet to be institutionalized. Mr Clifford Nsiska admitted that it can be very challenging for paralegals to operate in the justice system when their use is not legally recognized. He noted that in such a situation, there is the need to have a memorandum of understanding with all the criminal justice agencies and their stakeholders. Mr Nsiska pointed out that before entering an MOU, it is important to develop a paralegal code of conduct. Mr Simeon Koroma added that, in the absence of an MOU, it is helpful to identify and work with open-minded or like-mined individuals within the institutions that are involved in justice delivery.

 

The moderator also sought to find out how paralegal can intervene in the courts where, for example a magistrate imposes a wrong sentence. Mr Korie explained that the Legal Aid Act, 2012 in Sierra Leone makes provision on how paralegals can intervene in the Courts. Mr Nsiska noted that, in Malawi, every paralegal is connected to a lawyer and they often take note of such wrong sentences by the magistrate in question so the lawyers they work with are informed.

A participant suggested that the various CSOs and even Constitutional bodies such as CHRAJ that are either connected with justice delivery or directly involved in justice delivery can engage the services of paralegals. She then asked whether paralegals cover the entire country in Malawi and Sierra Leone and how they are remunerated. It was explained that paralegals do not currently cover the entire country in Malawi and Sierra Leone even though the expectation is for their work to soon extent over the entire country. It was also pointed out that, in Sierra Leone, some paralegals are paid by the state whilst others are paid through other arrangements, but the hope is to see all paralegals paid by the state by January 2018. Mr Nsiska indicated that there are two sets of paralegals in Malawi – those employed by and paid by government and those recruited by and paid by CSOs with the help of development partners.

 

 

Mr Anthony Forson, the vice president of the Ghana Bar Association and the representative of the General Legal Council at the dialogue noted that Ghana does not seem to be doing much in ensuring access to justice. He noted that a proposal he put forth in 2009 for the renewal of a lawyer’s solicitor’s license to be tied to the provision of legal aid services or a donation in lieu of such services is laudable and should be upheld. He promised there will be a change especially as he now serves on the Legal Aid Board. The moderator indicated that the work of the Young Lawyers Forum with the support of the British Council and the forum’s emphasis on the provision of pro-bono services ought to be promoted. ACP Tabiri, representing the IGP at the policy dialogue noted that the Ghana Police Service will be a much better service if Ghana were to formally recognize and use paralegals in police stations and the service as a whole.

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One participant asked whether there can be a specialized training for paralegals? Mr Koroma explained that paralegals may be trained either in a generalist based way or in a specialized based way. Basically, the nature of the training a paralegal is to go through is a function of the services the paralegal in question is to provide. He noted further that there may be additional training for paralegals in the area of their work beyond the generalized training they go through. In Sierra Leone, paralegals are trained by the Legal Aid Board or by institutions accredited by the Board.

The moderator directed a set of question to Mr Anthony Forson, who is the vice president of the Ghana Bar Association and the representative of the General Legal Council at the policy dialogue: is it not possible to have paralegals in courts (particularly the lower courts) in Ghana? This question he noted is important because, there are police prosecutors, court officers, magistrates etc. who are not lawyers but have learned through years of experience and have become experts in their respective areas. Mr Forson quizzed in response if it is not possible for various organizations (the Bar Association, The Ark Foundation, FIDA Ghana, CHRAJ, the Police Service, etc.) to liaise with the Legal Aid Scheme to have a multi-sectorial approach to have paralegals in Ghana’s courts. He noted that Ghana can use the law students on internship to assist with the legal aid program. Mr Forson promised to personally work to promote the work of paralegals.

On the duration of the training of paralegals, Mr Nsiska pointed out that the University of Malawi offers a two-year diploma for paralegals. On the place of local authorities in the provision of paralegal services, it was noted that local government officers can go through and also facilitate education on relevant legislation. One participant highlighted the immense work being done under the Justice for All Program which is currently operating under the Judicial Service with the support of development partners.

 

 

In terms of the potential problems challenges that could be encountered, Mr Koroma noted that quality assurance, independence, and sustainability are the three main areas to watch. He noted for example that it is the responsibility of government to create and fund a legal aid scheme; and he believes government should create and fund such schemes without seeking to control how the services are delivered. When asked what she would you say will be a paralegal system that would work for Ghana, Madam Wilhelmina Mensah noted that it would be helpful to have system where the Legal Aid Board would be the umbrella body responsible for the training and certification of paralegals. The Legal Aid Board, and with support from the General Legal Council, liaising with other organizations can put together an all-encompassing policy for Ghana. She also noted that development partners ought to be interested in funding CSOs that are involved in the use of paralegals.

 

 

The moderator then asked the panel members to share their closing remarks on developing a policy for Ghana for the formal recognition and incorporation of paralegals into the justice system: Madam Wilhemina Mensah noted Ghana must learn from examples elsewhere, but more importantly, Ghana must go beyond the talk and take action. Mr Mohammed Korie simply emphasized that lawyers should not feel threatened by the introduction of paralegals and there is the need to examine existing legislation so as to craft new legislation on their incorporation into the justice system. Mr Nsiska noted that the time for Ghana to recognize paralegals and their mandate legitimized is now. Mr Simeon Koroma pointed out that there is need to examine the Legal Aid Bill that is currently before Cabinet, so, Ghana find ways of working around the Bill. The moderator, Mr Samson Lardy Anyenini observed that the problem per se is not about the numbers of lawyers, but rather about the need for paralegals to meet a particular need that lawyers cannot meet.

 

 

Recommendations and the Way Forward

The dialogue at this point focused on discussing action plans and looking at the way forward in order to ensure that concrete steps can be taken in the formal recognition and regulation of paralegals in Ghana’s justice delivery system. The Executive Director, Legal Aid Scheme, Mr Alhassan Yahaya Seini explained that the Legal Aid Bill that is currently before Cabinet makes provision for paralegal participation through a paralegal program in legal aid delivery. There is therefore the need to work out the modalities for the paralegal program – who is a paralegal for Ghana’s purposes, where and how should a paralegal work, how to train paralegals, how to regulate the work of paralegals etc. are modalities that need to be discussed and adopted for the successful running of the program.

It was recommended that

  • UNDP ought to get a small team to study the Legal Aid Bill and where necessary make the necessary inputs promptly
  • There is need for further work on how CSO’s can be incorporated into any paralegal program that Ghana will adopt.
  • The need to consider the private of paralegals outside the government sector.
  • University faculties ought to be engaged to help develop relevant industry driven paralegal training programs.
  • Persons who have finished their LLB and waiting to do their professional law course can be engaged on Ghana’s paralegal program.
  • Efforts must be channeled towards detailing out the nature and kind of paralegal program that Ghana desires to adopt.

Closing Remarks by Executive Director, Legal Aid Scheme, Mr Alhassan Yahaya Seini

In his closing remarks, the executive director of the Legal Aid Scheme pointed out the interest of the participants in the policy dialogue demonstrates their desire to see justice being done for the poor. He promised that the stakeholders would do what they can to ensure that all the sentiments actually come to fruition. He called for urgent work and preparation to avoid a situation where the new bill is passed and nothing in done to implement the provisions on the use of paralegals.

 

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