Legal aid provides help to people who would otherwise be unable to afford legal representation or to gain access to the courts. Legal aid helps to ensure equality before the law, and to meet the right to counsel and to a fair trial.
The Daily Nation reports today:
State-sponsored legal aid for the poor who cannot afford to hire lawyers is not a novelty in many countries. In fact, this kind of welfare activism has been in existence in the West since the mid-1900s, and it has caught on in many emerging democracies since then. But not so in Kenya. Legal aid is the assistance given to the individual if his or her financial circumstances do not allow the hiring of lawyers. Such lawyers are usually hired by the State for a specific purpose.
On Monday, Solicitor-General Njee Muturi announced the introduction of just such a measure through a Bill to be tabled in Parliament. Though it is still too early to speculate on the Bill’s contents, the important thing is that it is aimed at assisting the most vulnerable in society to access justice.
It is a fact that millions of Kenyans cannot afford legal fees. So when they are caught up in situations that require the expertise of lawyers, they lose out in almost all cases. Especially vulnerable are the poor caught up in criminal litigation. It is possible that thousands of Kenyans end up in prison due to ignorance, or because they cannot plead properly. This is justice denied that should not be allowed to continue.
Until such a law is passed, prisoners who cannot afford a lawyer rely on initiatives such as KCLF. As Advocates International puts it, “KCLF stands out as Advocates Africa’s leading example in the area of legal aid programs and legal representation for those in prison awaiting trial.”