While dust refuses to settle on propositions that paralegals should be representing the poor masses in courts, other schools of thought are suggesting that the best solution to equal justice in the country is training more lawyers.
In a street interview, conducted on Monday in Mzuzu, most people quashed the proposition for paralegals to be representing the poor in courts, saying that the move would worsen the inequality gap between the poor and elites.
“Imagine someone being represented by a lawyer, qualified one, who has been at the college for seven years tussling with a poor man, represented in court by a paralegal, who hasn’t gone much further with legal studies. That’s widening the inequality gap,” said Chakuchanya Soko, resident of Zolozolo township.
Added Vitumbiko Luhanga, resident of Chiputula: “That’s a bad proposal all together. Paralegals are not lawyers. Much as I’m not despising them, but let everyone be represented by lawyers. Poor or rich.”
“The solution to equal justice,” suggested Wanangwa Mthali, “is to train more lawyers like we’ve nurses and teachers. That would increase access and affordability.”
Leonard Honde urged government to create access for private Universities to start offering law studies in a bid to increase the number of lawyers in the country.
“But, the program is monopolised at Chancellor college. Let govt open up. We need more lawyers,” he said.
The voxpop that engaged about 80 people, saw 70 of the participants opposing the paralegal representation proposal while only five recommended it. The other five were of the view that with adequate Civic education, both ideas would work.
In Malawi, access to justice is, according to statistics, in favor of the elites while the poor are denied the same due to, among other things, lack of knowledge on law and inaccessibility of legal representation in courts.
Information monitored online indicates that some inmates might have been thrown in jail while innocent as they had no mouth to prove their innocence.
Legal Aid Bureau and Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament officials want Section 14 of the Legal Aid Act to be amended so that people with cases in lower courts can be represented by paralegals.
The two argue that the amendment would improve access to justice and assist about 3000 people who are on remand across the country due to lack of legal representation.