Three Irish lawyers join Legal Aid to unclog justice system

LILONGWE—Three lawyers from the Irish Rule of Law International have joined Malawi’s Legal Aid Department and the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in a move designed to unclog the justice system.

Carolann Minnock, Sonya Donnelly and Ruth Dowling will help suspects who can’t afford lawyers; those without means to post bail and also people who might think they were forgotten as there are too many cases but too fee lawyers.

“There are people that have stayed on remand for too long, some of them up to six years. We will look at their cases alongside other organisations like Paralegal Advisory services and where possible try to get them bail or have conditions varied,” said Ruth Dowling who will be working at Legal Aid.

“We want to help especially the area of pre-trial detention that it does not become a form of punishment. Sometimes people stay longer in cells only to find that they are being sentenced to community work, this will reduce congestion and make the courts and the whole criminal justice system more efficient,” said Sonya Donnelly also assigned to Legal Aid.

Minnock said “my work at the DPP chambers would be to look at the old cases that my colleagues can bring them up and determine with the lawyers what the next course of action can be done so that old cases are not forgotten while new ones do not pile up.”

She said would also work on a diversion project championed by the Lilongwe Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace and DPP’s office which would allow minor offenders to earn their freedom by apologising for wrongdoing and/or returning stolen items.

The three lawyers, who will be in Malawi for a year, praised the country’s legal systems but noted that a lack of resources – personnel and court rooms – denied justice to both victim and accused.

The government of Ireland through Irish Aid funds the program. The three are in Malawi as volunteers.

by ABEL WEZZI, The Maravi Post

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