The services of the Legal Aid Council will be further expanded with the addition of two mobile units to be commissioned by the end of the financial year, bringing the number of mobile units operated by the Council to three.
This was disclosed by Justice Minister, Hon. Delroy Chuck, at the launch of the Legal Aid Council website on September 4 at the Ministry, Constant Spring Road in Kingston.
The units will facilitate the dispensing of free legal information on issues such as expungement of criminal records, wills, land titles, criminal matters, and child custody and maintenance.
In his address at the ceremony, Justice Minister, Hon. Delroy Chuck, said the mobile unit provides an essential service to many persons in need of legal counsel.
“Our mobile unit does a tremendous amount of work across communities in Jamaica, affording persons who can’t travel outside their communities to get legal-aid advice and counselling and all sorts of information,” he pointed out.
Highlighting the great demand for the services provided by the mobile unit, the Minister said this is evidence that the unit is meeting the needs of the wider community of persons who would not be able to access legal advice otherwise.
“We have two more buses, which will be commissioned during the course of this year, so we will have three mobile units to serve communities across Jamaica. When that happens, we should not hear of any community that asks for the mobile unit and it is not available,” he said.
He noted that the mobile unit is a critical component in increasing access to justice services at the community level.
“Citizens will be able to do a face-to-face with lawyers in the mobile unit. They can go to the mobile unit and interact with the attorney that is always present. Distance will not be a barrier, lack of money should not be a barrier and social status will definitely not be a barrier,” Mr. Chuck added.
He also encouraged persons to make use of the new Legal Aid Council website, which he said will post the schedule of the dates and communities that the mobile unit will be visiting.
Speaking with JIS News at the website launch, Executive Director of the Legal Aid Council, Hugh Faulkner, said the mobile unit has done a great deal of work at the community level, visiting over 100 communities across Jamaica with more than 3,000 residents receiving counsel as a result of these visits.
“These are communities where there is emphasis on trying to ensure there is peace, calm, employment opportunity, and access to justice. We did 120 community visits throughout the year, so that people can have access to justice,” he said.
“When the mobile unit goes out currently, the citizens have two lawyers they can speak to and we address their concerns. Even though legal aid is not granted for civil matters for trials, persons can get advice on any matter from our justice mobile unit, free of cost. That is why it is accessible… and with three units by the end of the financial year, we will be even more accessible,” the Executive Director said.
The Legal Aid Mobile Unit is part of the Government’s strategic priority to honour the rule of law and provide timely justice outcomes. The Unit, which began operations in January 2017, provides free consultation and advice, and completes court assignments for clients with criminal matters.