Friday, August 3, 2007 – Legal Aid is expected to soon be introduced in
Saint Lucia, following the passage of a bill in Parliament Tuesday, which
facilitates its establishment.
The bill fulfils a requirement that many in society have long advocated for,
that is to provide legal representation in areas where persons accused do not
have the economic capacity to fund their own representation.
In presenting the bill Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs
Honourable Stephenson King said the Act fulfils one of the fundamental
requirements of the constitution, which states that all should have equality
before the law.
He said, “There are many individuals in society who are unable to afford and
retain a lawyer in instances where they find themselves before the law and
therefore this arrangement here, with the introduction of the legal aid act will
grant them that opportunity, through the authority, to accept free legal
The bill facilitates the establishment of an authority, to be headed by an
executive director. A Board to be appointed by the Minister of Legal Affairs
will govern the administration of the legislation and create a list of attorneys
who are willing to provide the service.
While giving his support to the new bill, Minister for Housing Honourable
Richard Frederick, who is himself a lawyer, disagreed with sections of the Act
which stipulate that lawyers, to make that list, should have at least four years
of experience and also be a member of the St. Lucia Bar Association.
“My humble view is that it should be reduced to at least one year. One year
because no four-year practising barrister will come to give legal aid and the
whole objective of the Act will be defeated. It would be nonsensical, because
the operative term is who are willing and no-one with four years of experience
will be willing. So therefore if we are saying that that persons must be a
member of the Bar Association it makes a mockery of the constitutional provision
of freedom of association,” said the Castries Central MP.
The relevant sections were eventually deleted at committee stage of Tuesday's
sitting and amended to read: “An attorney-at-law, who is desirous of providing
legal aid and holds a valid practising certificate may, with his or her consent,
to be registered by the board on the list of attorneys to provide the service.”