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OPERATIVE LEGAL AID: AN IMPORTANT ASPECT OF ACCESS TO JUSTICE Part: 1 PDF Print E-mail
Written by BANKOLE CLIFFORD EKUNDAYO MORGAN, HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATE.   
Wednesday, 22 March 2017 21:28

(The thoughts expressed in this article are purely and entirely those of the author)

In every state, the justice system can be properly evaluated based on the manner in which the poor and vulnerable people do access justice. Effective administration of justice is the cornerstone of good governance, rule of law and human rights.  The enjoyment of the right to access to justice and the dispensation of justice in any state must not stand on political influence or affluent. It is prejudicialto discriminate against the poor and vulnerable persons wanting to access justice.

The justice system of any state must not be operating in a way that the poor and vulnerable are discriminated against due to their inability to hire the services of legal practitioners.  The right to access to justice essentially is one of the fundamental human rights. In my view, Justice surpasses the boundaries of a single legal system. In actual fact, Justice is a virtue and in essence, it is more than a sector and even more than a power. The right to access to justice is one of the most important human rights and it is conceived as both a means and an end to justice.

LEGAL AID SYSTEM

Establishing a legal Aid system in any state is one way by which the government can provide for the poor and vulnerable people to enable them have access to justice. Legal aid is a medium by which the poor and vulnerable people in society will enjoy the right to access to justice without any limitation.  It is obvious that without an effective and or operative legal system, the poor and vulnerable people will continue to wallow in despair by facing huge challenges in accessing justice.  Access to justice is a human right which ought to be protected by law and guaranteed by the state. When a state fails to create the enabling environment for the promotion and protection of fundamentalhuman rights, those rights will definitely become meaningless.  The fact is access to justice is a germane component of the Rule of Law.

 

ACCESS TO JUSTICE CAN BE PERCEIVED AS A MEANS AND AN END TO JUSTICE

Access to justice can be perceived as both a means and an end to justice. It is a means as it concerns the efficient method of enabling users of justice system to benefit from the end product of justice. Likewise, it can be perceived as an end, in the protection of an individual’s right to justice through ease of access when the need arises. The lack of access to justice and or the unfair dispensation of justice in any state will ultimately undermine the tenets of good governance, rule of law and human rights.

THE POPULARLY KNOWN PHRASE “RULE OF LAW”

The popularly known phrase “Rule of Law” is frequently used but little explained or understood that no one is above the law. The term ‘rule of law’ can be interpreted as the restriction of arbitrary exercise of power by subordinating it to well-defined and established rules or guidelines. Effective legal aid has undoubtedly been deemed one of the most important aspects of access to justice. The fight in the promotion and protection of the right to access to justice must not be hindered by anyone. This means public officials, rule of law and development advocates are therefore energized to implement new strategies to ensure that the right to access to justice is constructively promoted and protected. It is the responsibility of government to ensure that this very important Rule of Law guarantee is not sacrificed due to other factors like unavailability of funds.

FINANCING AN EFFECTIVE LEGAL AID SHOULD BE OF PRIORITY TO GOVERNMENT

The plain truth is that for a Legal Aid scheme to function effectively, government must in the first place aware of the fact thatthere are huge number ofmembers of the public likethe poor and vulnerable ones who are suffering in accessing justice. Secondly, government must have passion for these people, and thirdly, government must be committed in providing consistent and adequate funding to the Legal Aid Board. It is an established fact that operative legal aid has undoubtedly been deemed the most important aspect of access to justice. In developing and developed countries, financing of an effective legal aid program is of priority to governments.A central reasoning is that the extent to which legality is valued, facilitated and guaranteed by the treatment of the necessary components is a determinant of whether the said components work to make legal aid systems effective.

LEGAL AID SYSTEM OUGHT TO BE SUSTAINABLE AND DEMAND-ORIENTED

The point is made that effectiveness of law, being a cognitive institution, requires that the legal aid system is sustainable and demand-oriented, being targeted at the needs of the most needy “rights-holders” and constantly being monitored and evaluated, albeit avoiding bureaucracy. The legal aid service should be comparable to paid legal services and be aimed at client-satisfaction or high clients’ approval. Where possible, it should facilitate diversion from litigation to Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), to save the poor and vulnerable people from the challenges faced in courts and the strain on public funds.A few examples of the kinds of cases which have traditionally qualified for legal aid include: when someone with dementia is facing eviction and cannot fight the case against their local authority by themselves; when a victim of domestic violence needs to ensure safety for themselves (and in many cases also their children); and when someone has been accused of committing a crime.

ACCESS TO JUSTICE IS A FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHT

Access to justice as a fundamental human right and it can be render meaningless if government does not create the enabling environment for the poor and the vulnerable ones to enjoy it without any discrimination. Legal aid is essential to guaranteeing equal access to justice for the poor and the vulnerable people in society.Normally, laws have been known to exist and the essence for that is to regulate human behaviour. Law regulates society and sets standards by which the rights of every individual or creature, their person or property are respected promoted and protected. Sierra Leone as a state is a member of the world community and being such must be governed by certain rules which ensure that society operate regularly like other members of the global community. From that we observe that the law itself forms a social instrument which acts as a lubricating oil for the effectiveness of society. Therefore, an effective and operative legal aid system is an important aspect of access to justice.Conclusively,establishing a legal Aid system in any state is one way by which the government can provide for the poor and vulnerable people to enable them have access to justice

 

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