Pre-Departure Briefing for Malawi Access to Justice Project

IRLI Welcomes new Volunteer Programme Lawyers to the Malawi Team

New IRLI Volunteer Programme Lawyers joined by Eithne Lynch, returned IRLI volunteer and Madam De Silva, Head of Community Policing in Area 3 Lilongwe

New IRLI Volunteer Programme Lawyers joined by Eithne Lynch, returned IRLI volunteer and Madam De Silva, Head of Community Policing in Area 3 Lilongwe

IRLI is delighted to welcome our two new Volunteer Programme Lawyers to the Malawi Access to Justice Project. Sarah Houlihan and Morgan Crowe will travel to Lilongwe in the next two weeks where they will join Jane O’Connell who has been steering the project since November. Jane has been doing a fantastic job so we are thrilled to have a full team now again so we can build on the great work she has done. Eithne Lynch, pictured above, worked with the Project in Malawi for 18 months and continues to remain hugely involved in the work of IRLI through her volunteer support in Dublin.

Morgan and Sarah will be working with IRLI in Malawi for the next 12 months on a volunteer placement, providing legal assistance to prisoners on remand as well as working with key partners to strengthen capacities in the criminal justice system. The volunteer placement programme is supported by Irish Aid who are one of IRLI’s main donors.

One of the project’s key interventions is the establishment of Diversion Programmes in Police Stations in Lilongwe. To date, IRLI has established Diversion Programmes in 6 Police Stations with a view to an additional 2 in the next few months. IRLI works together with the Malawi Police Service to sensitise police officers as to the use of diversion as an alternative to prison sentences and for which cases this could be applied.  Regular training workshops are held, and key police officers identified who can share their knowledge and promote the use of Diversion to their colleagues. IRLI programme lawyers follow up with the officers and Police Stations on a regular basis to monitor progress and provide assistance where necessary.

Head of Community Policy in Area 3, Madam de Silva, was instrumental in accompanying IRLI programme lawyers to meetings in the Police Stations as well as sharing her own experiences about the benefits of Diversion. We were privileged that Madam de Silva was able to join the pre-departure briefing for the new volunteers in the Law Society on Saturday 22nd February 2014 to provide more insight as to the challenges faced and opportunities for the use of Diversion in the Malawi Police Service.

The Diversion Programme is one facet of IRLI’s overall approach towards addressing overcrowding in Malawi’s prisons and providing access to justice for the country’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens. Diversion offers the opportunity to reduce numbers within the prison system at the earliest stages of the criminal justice process. Malawian law allows for progressive restorative justice approaches, although due to a lack of widespread understanding there has been a reluctance to implement them. In this respect, the project is focusing on behavioral change within the system through providing training and building the capacity of key stakeholders.