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Legal Aid expects paralegal report in Parliament

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By Wezzie Gausi

The Legal Aid Bureau (Lab) has said it expects the Minister of Justice to present a report on paralegals in the next meeting of Parliament, slated for February 3 2022.

In 2021, the bureau, on behalf of paralegals, courted stakeholders including Parliament on the need to amend the Legal Aid Act so that they can be allowed to represent clients in subordinate courts.

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Lab Director Masauko Chamkakala said their institution was waiting for the minister to report back to Parliament in line with a resolution of the august House.

“We are aware that the ministry is within the time set as Parliament wasn’t meeting. However, we expect the minister to present his report in the next meeting. This is what we have been expecting.

“As you are aware, the bureau has a backlog of cases that need court representation. If Parliament agrees to amend [provisions of] the Act, then we will be making strides in the provision of justice in the country,” Chamkakala said.

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Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament Chairperson Peter Dimba said they presented the report to the august House.

He said what was remaining was for the Ministry of Justice to take the Bill to Parliament.

“If the ministry drags its feet, our committee is ready to present the same as a Private Member’s Bill.

“We, as a committee, already sought [stakeholders’] views on the paralegal issue and most stakeholders that appeared before the committee were giving a nod to the suggestion that the Act should be amended so that paralegals can be allowed to practice in court,” Dimba said.

The Malawi Law Society applied to the courts for judicial review against the action by the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament, which was at the time seeking stakeholders’ views on the issue.

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