KINGSTON, Jamaica — More than 3,000 Jamaicans received assistance from the Ministry of Justice’s Legal Aid Council (LAC) through Duty Counsel representation in 2020.

The ministry said empanelled attorneys facilitated free legal representation during interrogation sessions by the police, attended identification parades, and posted applications for station or court bail. Minister of Justice, Delroy Chuck, said that despite the outbreak of COVID-19, the council continued to improve access to justice, including facilitating those in financial constraints.

“The Legal Aid Council has a sustained programme of assistance for Jamaicans who have matters before the Court. Once a claim is submitted for Duty Counsel representation, the Council engages an attorney who provides legal support from the time they are in police custody to the time of their first appearance in court,” the minister said.

He noted further that access to justice, regardless of financial circumstances, is considered a basic human right.

According to the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms (Constitutional Amendment) Act, 2011, Section 16 (6c), “every person charged with a criminal offence shall­ be entitled to defend himself in person or through legal representation of his own choosing or, if he has not sufficient means to pay for legal representation, to be given such assistance as is required in the interests of justice”.

The ministry said the LAC has engaged more than 700 attorneys to accept legal aid assignments through the Duty Counsel service and provision of legal representation for criminal matters in court.

Individuals who need legal representation for a criminal matter are encouraged to contact their local police station, or the LAC at (876)948-6999 or [email protected], for the list of attorneys who provide Duty Counsel service. 

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