Pilot National Legal Aid 3rd Stakeholders Consultative Meeting: The Legal Aid Guide
“Sierra Leone poised to have most progressive Legal Aid scheme in the Developing world”!
Pilot National Legal Aid (PNLA) was established by the Government of Sierra Leone and the Justice Sector Development Programme on January 6th 2010 to provide access to justice for those living in Sierra Leone who cannot afford to pay for the services of a lawyer. PNLA’s main focus is providing advice, assistance and representation, in the criminal justice system at the entry points of prisons, police stations and courts. It has also been tasked with developing draft legislation to support the establishment of a national legal aid scheme.
In April 2010, A Stakeholders meeting was held to consider a Draft Legal Aid Bill for Sierra Leone. The Bill was drafted after a Draft Policy had been approved by the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, which provided for a national legal aid scheme that would be accessible, affordable, sustainable and credible for Sierra Leone.
The Stakeholders meeting considered the Draft Bill clause by clause and eventually presented a copy to the Attorney –General for submission to Cabinet. Cabinet has now approved the Draft Bill which will be tabled to Parliament to become law in the shortest possible time. In order for it to be implemented, in terms of the Bill, it is necessary for a Legal Aid Guide to be prepared.
Therefore, a 3rd Stakeholders Meeting on the 24th and 25th May 2011 will consider a Draft Legal Aid Guide. Hosted by PNLA, Stakeholders from the Judiciary, Bar Association, Sierra Leone Police, Department of Public Prosecutions, Prisons department, other government departments and institutions, non-governmental organizations and civil society will review clause by clause the Draft Legal Aid Guide and present the results of their deliberations on the morning of the 25th.
One of the foremost roles of Government is to provide an accessible and fair system for dealing with crimes, conflicts, disputes and grievances in order to promote justice. In order to do so and to honour its obligations to the UN and other international bodies, Sierra Leone has made Legal aid a priority as stated by H.E. The President.
According to Professor David McQuoid-Mason, the leading expert on Legal Aid in Africa, when the Legal Aid Bill is passed, Sierra Leone will probably have the most progressive legal aid scheme in the developing world , because not only does it provide for legal aid services by lawyers but it also takes into account the needs of rural people by incorporating the services of paralegals and ngos/csos as well as traditional dispute resolution mechanisms in order to make legal aid accessible, affordable, sustainable and credible for the poor and marginalized people of Sierra Leone.
“Opening the Doors to Justice”Pilot National Legal Aid 4th Floor Ministerial Building (078-200204, 078- 200205)
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