Towards the end of the year 2013, a lot more accused persons and their families had heard about HelpLaw Ghana. The organization received more calls for legal assistance to indigent accused persons. While more than 10 trials were going on and at various stages in different courts, it was extremely difficult for the sole lawyer and Founder of the organization to attend to the many requests received by the organization.
Fortunately or unfortunately, things slowed down to a little extent just before Christmas when the courts have gone on break for the holidays. During this period, HelpLaw Ghana is preparing to mobilize funding from various sources to increase its activities and cover a lot more people who are being denied justice by a flawed criminal justice system. To appreciate the problem HelpLaw Ghana is trying to resolve, our donors are referred to the following passage extracted from a report published by Amnesty International in 2012.
"People here are perishing because of the lack of a lawyer"
Joseph, an inmate in his 30s:
The majority of inmates are too poor to easily afford private legal services, and court appointed, pro-bono lawyers are few and overworked. Under the 1997 Legal Aid Scheme Act, anyone who earns less than the minimum wage is entitled to free legal aid. In addition, the Legal Aid Board can decide to offer legal aid to anyone they think requires it. Many prisoners interviewed by Amnesty International said they had not had a lawyer during their trial. Some prisoners said that they only met their court-appointed lawyer on the day of the trial; others that their lawyer did not appear interested in the case. Still other prisoners raised the problem of lack of money to initiate an appeal.
In the words of one prisoner, "unless you have money to take appeal then you stay in.” The Committee against Torture has expressed concern at "the very limited number of legal aid defence lawyers which precludes many defendants from obtaining legal counsel." Legal representation can be an important safeguard against unfair trials and lengthy pre-trial detention. Under international standards, suspects have the right to defend themselves or be represented by a lawyer of their choosing, and to receive free legal assistance if they do not have sufficient funds to pay. (Page 14 of AI report, “Prisoners are Bottom of the pile” The Human Rights of Inmates in Ghana).
On page 6 of the same report, the following was provided:
“I had a lawyer that my family paid for, but I don’t have money to make an appeal. Another woman was pregnant and appealed and got out…I just don’t want to be here. I want to go home. My child is my problem. I want to go home.” -- Nana, a pregnant woman in her 20s with an 11-month-old baby at home, serving a four year sentence for petty theft.
These extracts further highlight the flaws in the criminal justice system of Ghana, some of which have been discussed at the official site of HelpLaw Ghana, https://www.help-law.org/2013/. While we are not relenting in pushing for our goals and vision, it is being extremely difficult to make the required impact as a result of very minimal or no funding at all. However, there is a great deal of hope that some major break-through shall come in the year 2014 when we shall move into a higher gear with public campaigns in the media, symposia, seminars, and lobbying for reform of the criminal justice system of Ghana. We are hoping that you shall continue to provide the necessary encouragement and support to us as we uplift our activities for increased impact. I thank you all.
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating or by subscribing to this project's RSS feed.