New mobile justice units increase capacity of Legal Aid Council
The Legal Aid Council’s (LAC) new mobile justice units have tripled the capacity of the Council to deliver justice services to Jamaicans.
The two units, which have boosted the number to three, were acquired through collaboration between the Ministry of Justice and the Canadian government under the Justice Undertakings for Social Transformation (JUST) programme and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Since being added to the fleet, the units have been utilised in communities in Kingston and, most recently, at an Expungement Fair in Montego Bay, St James, where approximately 300 persons were reached.
Executive Director of the LAC, Hugh Faulkner, said that the new units enabled the Council to effectively manage the turnout at the fair.
“Each bus saw approximately 100 people. From 10 am to 6 pm we saw many persons visiting the buses. The turnout was huge and most persons wanted information on expungement, while others had issues with cases that were adjourned but are still against their record,” Mr Faulkner noted.
He said that the LAC is grateful for the donation of the two fully-equipped buses.
“We are thankful to our donors in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice because these buses will ensure that persons, even those who are not within close proximity to a legal clinic, will now have sustained and scheduled service from the mobile units,” Mr Faulkner added.
Meanwhile, for fiscal year 2019/20, the mobile justice units sensitised hundreds of persons across Jamaica in 68 communities across 11 parishes.
“Sometimes, we give priority to those communities that encounter difficulties in terms of youth unemployment and vulnerability to violence. For the same period, 717 persons received direct advice from the units,” Mr Faulkner said.
He noted that the two main categories of matters dealt with were criminal and civil matters.
“In terms of criminal matters, there are times when family members will come and indicate to the attorney on the mobile unit that their relative is detained. From the mobile unit, we call and deploy a lawyer to the lockup or wherever the person is held,” he said.
A major part of the LAC mandate is to administer an efficient and coordinated legal-aid system that entitles Jamaicans to duty counsel or court assignments.