Parliament has passed the Legal Aid Commission Bill, 2017 into law. The document now awaits Presidential assent to become enforceable.
The purpose of the law is to revise the Legal Aid Scheme Act, 1997 (Act 542) to establish the Legal Aid Commission to provide legal aid and other legal services to individuals in accordance with Article 14, 17 and 294 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana.
The new law aims to provide workable guidelines for accessing legal aid in Ghana. It also introduces the option of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in granting an application for legal aid.
A memorandum on the Bill from the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Gloria Akuffo forwarded to Parliament during the consideration stages of the Bill, stated that, Regional and District Offices and Community Mediation Centres are provided for, to deliver legal aid where it is most required.
According to her, “the conditions of service for the legal and other staff of the Commission are also a new feature introduced by the Bill, which also establishes a Legal Aid Commission as a body corporate with perpetual succession.
The object of the Commission is to provide legal aid to an indigent as well as a person who has reasonable grounds to take, defend, prosecute or be a party to proceedings related to the Constitution.
The functions include the determination of persons or class of persons to whom legal aid may be granted, and the matters or class of matters in respect of which legal aid may be granted.
Another function of the Commission is to bring to the attention of the public the services provided by the Commission by advertisement and other means.
The Commission may also enter into agreements for the provision of legal aid to citizens in proceedings outside the country with bodies which perform functions outside Ghana similar to those of the Commission.
“Except as provided by the Constitution, the Commission is not subject to the direction or control of any person or Authority in the performance of its functions.
A sound legal framework for the provision of a legal aid will benefit the poor and vulnerable and ensure the achievement of liberty, equality of opportunity, freedom and justice as well as the protection and preservation of fundamental human rights and freedoms as stated in the preamble to the Constitution,” the memoranda stated.