Executive Director of the Legal Aid Council (LAC), Hugh Faulkner, has reported that the LAC provided duty counsel to 3,331 persons for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.
“For duty counsel, 3,331 sessions were done to assist Jamaicans. In other words, 3,331 Jamaicans had an attorney present to advise them of their rights during [police] question-and-answer sessions,” Faulkner said.
“We believe that justice delayed is justice denied, so we have a rapid-response policy to duty counsel. Once we receive a request for duty counsel, an attorney is assigned immediately.”
Duty counsel is a system under the Ministry of Justice, executed by the LAC, which provides free legal representation for detainees at the identification parade, question-and-answer session by the police, lockup visits, and for posting application for station or court bail.
The executive director also noted that for the 2018-2019 period, a total of 3,648 cases were completed by the LAC, including matters concerning expungement and appeals.
“We were able to help a number of persons who would have had matters from their past which were impeding their ability to gain employment, training or travel,” Faulkner said.
He pointed out that for 2020, the council intends to increase its Parish Court output by 20 per cent.
“For the new year, the LAC also hopes to help more mentally ill persons facing the justice system. We want to remind the family members of detained mentally ill persons that they can contact the LAC for legal advice, as there are several steps which can be taken regarding the mentally ill in the court system,” Faulkner encouraged.
The LAC is a statutory entity under the Ministry of Justice. The council’s mandate is to administer an efficient and coordinated legal aid system in Jamaica.