Legal Aid Council pushing to help more mentally ill persons for 2020
Executive Director of the Legal Aid Council (LAC), Hugh Faulkner, has indicated that for the New Year the organisation intends to increase its parish court output after it was able to provide duty counsel to over 3,000 persons for the 2018/2019 fiscal year.
Faulkner also indicated that the LAC was also moving to provide more assistance for mentally ill persons facing the justice system. He has also issued a call for family members of detained mentally ill persons to not be afraid to seek advice from the organisation.
“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,” Mr Faulkner encouraged.
“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,” Mr 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,” he added.
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,” Mr Faulkner said.
He pointed out that for 2020, the Council intends to increase its Parish Court output by 20 per cent.
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.