‘Poor need legal services’

A LEGAL aid service provider has bemoaned the lack of legal representation among the poor in society and has attributed the inability by the vulnerable to access legal services because of prohibitive legal fees. 

Paralegal Alliance Network Programme Coordinator Edward Sakala said this was due to prohibitive legal fees which the less privileged people in society could not afford as most lawyers practiced commercial law and were too busy to offer free legal services.

Mr Sakala said government should ensure that legal services and legal assistance were affordable to all citizens irrespective of their status in society and proposed that certain fees should be exempted for the poor.

He said this yesterday at a workshop in Lusaka.

Mr Sakala said there was need for government to approve and implement the legal aid policy which would protect the poor and vulnerable in society who could not afford services of a private lawyer.

He said the privileges of law should be the same and there should be equal justice among the poor and the rich as the law never segregated neither discriminatory.

“The only answer to equal justice among the marginalized people was for government to recognize, remunerate, protect and accredit paralegals as they were not recognized in the Zambian law.

He said women,who were the most marginalized in society,  should be protected on legal problems such as family matters, domestic violence, spousal abuse or child support.

Mr Sakala said there was need for government to provide legal representation to juvenile offenders and ensure that they were kept away from adult offenders as a protection against abuse.

Statistics show that 64 percent of Zambians live below the poverty datum line and would not afford legal services, and many of them do not know their human rights.

He said once the paralegals were recognized and protected they would represent the poor who could not afford legal services by offering them free legal advice.

Mr Sakala said the Paralegal Alliance Network was also advocating for the implementation of the alternative dispute resolution system (ADR) which would encourage reconciliation and arbitration to reduce the backlog of cases in courts.

Government should also spearhead a legal awareness programme aimed at promoting continued dissemination of law in order to enhance legal literacy among  citizens. Mr Salaka said there was need for government to increase the number of courts and ensure their equitable distribution around the country.

At the same workshop Mr Sakala urged journalists to report on legal matters aimed at sensitizing the general public on their legal rights.