Paralegals system should be legalized – CHRI
The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) at a roundtable has stressed the indispensable role of the paralegals system and the need for it to be legalized to bolster the fight for access to justice by poor detainees.
The discussion sought to increase knowledge of stakeholders like Ministry of Interior, Judiciary, Legislature, Attorney General’s (AG) Department, Legal Aid-Scheme, Ghana Police Service and Ghana Prisons Service on the role of paralegals in the country and the need to give it a legal backing.
Speaking on the theme: “Promoting improved access to justice for the indigent pre-trial detainees”, Ms Mina Mensah, Regional Coordinator of CHRI, Africa Office, urged stakeholders to consider charting and implementing a policy on the operations of paralegals in the country.
She said there was the need to come out with a legal backing to push for the proper functioning of paralegals in Ghana, stressing that other countries have been able to apply it their advantage.
“For instance if a suspect is charged with robbery instead of stealing, and there is someone to intercede on behalf of the person, then he/she can be granted bail by the police,” she said.
“For it is easier to get bail in the law court if it is stealing, but with robbery the first thing the judge will say is that, it is an offence that cannot receive bail,” she said.
Mr Akoto Ampaw, a legal practitioner, speaking about injustices in the courts, said promotion of paralegals would be a good step for the nation, defending his position on the basis that the law presumes every citizen is innocent, stressing that every accused individual – whether rich or poor ought to have a lawyer.
“There is a massive inequality between those who can afford the services of lawyers and those who cannot, and that is why it is pertinent to promote paralegals to close the midway between the rich and indigent when it comes to legal services,” he said.
The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative Africa Office established in 2001 is an independent, non-partisan, international nongovernmental organisation mandated to ensure the practical realization of human rights in commonwealth countries.