Friday June 27 2014

Expedite passing of national legal aid policy - Chief Justice

Principal Judge Yorokamu Bamwine (L), Commercial Court judge

Principal Judge Yorokamu Bamwine (L), Commercial Court judge Henry Adonyo (C) and Uganda Law Society president Ruth Sebatindira (R) chat at a conference on legal aid in Kampala yesterday. PHOTO BY STEPHEN WANDERA 


KAMPALA- The government should fast-track the passing of the National Legal Aid Policy and Legal Aid Bill into law to help regularise the activities of legal aid providers, the acting Chief Justice has said.

Justice Steven Kavuma yesterday said there were more than 40 registered legal aid service providers,-- both government and non-government actors, but are operating without any streamlined procedures.

Legal aid is the provision of free legal services to people who cannot afford those offered by lawyers at a fee.

He explained that having a formal policy to regularise activities of the legal aid providers is necessary since there are more than 36 per cent poor Ugandans who cannot afford the hired legal services of advocates.

Justice Kavuma made the call yesterday while opening a two-day workshop on legal policy in Kampala. “There is no comprehensive law and policy on legal aid service delivery in Uganda yet about 36 per cent of all people are too poor to afford paying for the services of a lawyer,” Justice Kavuma said.

He added: “Legal aid services address the concerns of the poor and vulnerable by focusing on challenges arising from non-affordability of user costs, lack of legal representation and alienation due to technicalities, language and ignorance about legal rights, hence this call to those concerned to fast-track the same.”

Internal Affairs junior minister James Baba said the National Legal Aid Policy and Legal Aid Bill was before Cabinet, adding that within a period of seven months from now, it would have been passed into law.

Legal aid has been going on in Uganda for more than 20 years but mostly through non-state actors such as the Uganda Law Society and the Federation of Uganda Female Lawyers.