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Officials in the Legal Aid Sector have said contrary to the worry of some, the work of paralegals does not pose competition for lawyers but rather complements their work.

Speaking at the launch of the annual Legal Aid Week on Tuesday October 13, Mr Yahaya Alhassan Seini, the Executive Director of the Legal Aid Scheme, said paralegals support lawyers and do the things that most of them cannot afford spending their time on, filling an important gap in the process, especially given the shortage of lawyers.

The 2015 Legal Aid week, themed “Access to Criminal Justice: The Role of Paralegals”, would see the Legal Aid Scheme embark on sensitization exercises and visits to some police stations including the Sakumono, Ashaiman, Nungua and Jamestown police stations.

Mr Seini said for a population of over 26 million, all of whom deserve the right to be protected by lawyers, there are 2,166 lawyers licensed to practise in Ghana, spread over 696 law chambers, 162 of which are legal departments of state and non-state organizations.

“The Ghana Police, on a bad day, can arrest as many suspects across the country as there are licensed lawyers”, he said.

Furthermore he argued that “there are not more than three districts outside the ten regional capitals in Ghana where a resident lawyer can be found” and very often, the cost of transporting a lawyer to those communities outside the regional capitals, is above the income of the suspect.

Ms Mina Mensah, the Regional Coordinator of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), an international NGO which engages in police compliance, accountability and reforms among its activities, was also in support, arguing that people are needed at the entrance of the criminal justice system to provide some legal counsel.

She said by engaging with the police and providing pre-trial counsel, paralegals often prevent problems such as the unduly long detention of persons awaiting trial and persons who are innocent, by the police.

The celebration of Legal Aid Week was conceived in 2011 at a conference on access to justice for the poor in West Africa.

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