Legal aid for Civil Court Cases under fire

Govt. Press Secretariat - An amendment before Parliament will restrict the Community Law Center to provide legal aid only to defendant charged with criminal offenses.

Established by law in 2015, the Community Law Center was designed to provide free legal services to the people of Samoa by strengthening and improving public access to legal services.

The primary target for the Community Law Centre was to enhance the availability of legal services (ease of access to legal services and legal information) for the community at large, in particular those members of the public who cannot afford private legal assistance.

It included free legal aid for defendants facing criminal charges as well as clients involved in civil court cases.

However, the amendment is for the Community Law Center to provide legal aid only for defendants charged with criminal offenses.

In defending the amendment, Justice Minister Faaolesa Katopau Ainu’u noted that the $200,000 tala budget for Legal Aid is insufficient to cater for the rising demand for defendants facing criminal charges and eligible for legal aid from the Center.

But most importantly, the Minister noted that legal representation by any defendant charged with a criminal offense is mandated by the constitution.

Supporting the amendment, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi noted that the legal aid assistance paid for by taxpayers have also been abused by certain lawyers.

“These are the same lawyers manipulating the system by encouraging clients to sue the government knowing full well that it’s a lost cause for their clients but a sure pay check from the legal aid assistance funded by taxpayers.

“That in my book is a devious crime that should be discontinued,” added the Prime Minister.

 

WHAT GOVT SAVINGS?

Also related to debating the amendment, the Prime Minister clarified that concerns raised by certain members to use government savings from previous years reported to be in the thousands of tala are “ludicrous.”

While it sounds good for government to report savings from its expenditures it is a poor reflection on the Executive Branch because it defeats the entire purpose for any government to fulfil its mandate for the people and that is to implement projects that benefits the people.

“It is also an unacceptable reflection on any CEO who fail to expedite his budget expenditures of public projects or developments which the public will reap the benefits.

“And the reality is that there are no government savings at the end of each fiscal year because the budgeted funds are redirected to finance other beneficial projects which our people deserves.”

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