News & Sports.
Increase being sought for legal aid lawyers
The Legal Aid Council, says it is seeking an increase in the fees paid to lawyers representing detainees under the legal aid programme. Executive Director of the Legal Aid Council, Hugh Faulkner who was a guest at the RJR News Centre's News Forum on Friday, says the Legal Aid Council has had its attempts to get higher fees for legal aid lawyers thwarted by changes in the Justice Minister in quick succession. While not revealing the current fees or the proposed increases he said a submission recently made and it is hoped that this will be signed quickly. Meanwhile, Mr Faulkner has urged Jamaicans who can afford attorneys, to do so, instead of using the legal aid system. He stated that people may be abusing the system, by giving misinformation on the means test document which is used to assess individuals for legal aid. He stressed that the programme is for those who are detained but do not have financial means to pay for defence attorneys.“It does not make sense that you are able to afford and attorney and you deny someone else, even thought we grant it, but let the funds be directed to someone who is genuinley in need” he addedHowever, despite the abuse that the system is exposed to from individuals using legal aid even when they can afford to pay, Mr Faulkner says the police must advise all detainees that they can access legal aid. He says failure to do so can lead to sanctions: “I know that with other bodies being set up especially INDECOM, we are hoping that with the possiblity of sanctions that the officers will take their roles more seriously , but for the most part we receive cooperation but there are always a few who would either disregard it or indifferent as to whether the person is advised” said Mr Faulkner.