Human Resource Constraints Choke Legal Aid Operations
The Legal Aid Bureau says delays in amending the legal aid act is choking its operations as it is overwhelmed with handling matters in smaller courts.
Since 2021, the bureau has been lobbying for the amendment of the Legal Aid Act on grounds that it is overwhelmed with cases as the then 25 lawyers under the bureau were not enough to represent all its clients.
The bureau proposed to have the act amended to allow paralegals to represent clients in magistrate courts.
Legal Aid Public Relations Officer John Namalenga Jnr has told us that cases are not being taken with speed due to the delay in amending the law.
Namalenga also told us that the bureau could be saving financial resources if consideration is taken to amend the law as currently, only lawyers are allowed to represent the accused in court and the bureau has 40 lawyers.
The proposal to amend the law however received resistance and a backlash from the Malawi Law Society, which noted that giving limited right of audience for legal aid assistants, popularly known as paralegals, in particular subordinate courts that deal with matters that are within their competence levels would affect legal standards in the country.
Two years later without tangible outputs, the continued delay to act on the request according to social commentator Victor Chipofya Jnr is hindering justice to those who swiftly deserve it.
As of October 2023, the bureau has beefed up its human resource from 25 to 40 lawyers, and this year alone, the bureau has registered 3,450 cases.