The Legal Aid Commission Bill, 2017 had gone through the second reading on the floor of the House with 32 amendments after the Chairman of the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, Ben Abdallah Banda presented reports of the committee to the House for approval.
Hon. Ben Abdallah Banda noted that, apart from restructuring the Scheme into a commission with the requisite level of autonomy, it would further enhance access to legal aid services in the country through the establishment of regional and district offices.
He further added that the above measure would inure to the benefit of the poor and vulnerable in the Ghanaian society, to ensure the achievement of liberty, equality before the law, freedom and justice as well as the protection of other fundamental human rights and freedoms.
In the Chairman’s presentation of the Committee’s report, he indicated that the Bill has made provisions to address the poor conditions of service of legal officers of the Commission to attract and retain the requisite number of legal professionals needed to administer legal aid in the country.
Mr. Banda further noted that concerns of providing a provision in the Bill to require practicing lawyers to perform pro bono as a condition for the renewal of their Solicitor’s License was strongly rejected by the Committee. In the report, the Committee held that General Legal Council is the statutory body responsible for the regulation of lawyers in Ghana and such a body alone has the power to make such a regulation.
When passed, the Legal Aid Commission Bill, 2017 would repeal the Legal Aid Scheme Act, 1997 (Act 542) to provide legal aid and other legal services to certain category of individuals in Ghana.
The Bill contains sixty-one provisions. Clause 1 of the Bill seeks to establish a Legal Aid Commission to replace the existing Legal Aid Scheme. Clauses 2 to 14 are provisions for the governance of the Commission. Provisions regarding administration of the Commission are provided under Clauses 15 to 25.
Also, financial arrangements for the Commission have been provided under clauses 26 to 37 of the Bill. The procedure for application for legal aid and an appeal mechanism have been provided for under Clauses 38 to 48. Provisions have again be made for the application of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms which, are covered under Clauses 49 and 50.
Miscellaneous provisions are set out from Clauses 51 to 61 to deal with matters concerning privileged information, immunity of conveners, offences, guidelines and Regulations among others.