Community Based-Paralegals Demand Recognition and Regulation in the Legal Practice Bill

Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - 20:14

In its current form, the Legal Practice Bill [B20-2012] completely ignores community-based paralegals (CBPs) and community advice offices (CAOs). CBPs and CAOs have responded to this omission by preparing a joint submission to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development, through their representative structures, the National Alliance for the Development of Community Advice Offices (Nadcao) and the National Task Team on community-based paralegals (NTT).

The Minister of Justice has described the Bill as a landmark in improving access to justice for poor communities, but it is difficult to comprehend how this might be possible without the continued services of CAOs and the CBPs who work for them.

CBPs and CAOs contend that, in line with Government’s policy intention to promote access to justice and to unify the legal profession, the LPB should recognise the role and value of community advice offices and community-based paralegals, and accord roles, responsibilities and duties to community-based paralegals within the formal legal system. In the poorest, most marginalised community CBPs - whose services are provided freely through CAOs - are often the only on-the-ground point of access to the justice system. Failure to recognise this reality in the law, risks seriously undermining efforts to transform the justice system and give effect to constitutional rights of access to justice for all.

Given the central role, the CBPs have in enhancing access to justice for the poor and vulnerable and it must be of great concern to all citizens that CBPs have yet to be recognised as legal practitioners. Given too that CAOs are dependant on donor funding, their sustainability is questionable. However, the Bill, together with the Legal Services Sector Charter of 2007, could provide a substantive opportunity for the state to wholly pay for or subsidise the costs of CAOs. As access to justice is a state obligation, so too then should be the costs associated with it.

The joint written submission has been delivered to the Committee on 27 July 2012. Nadcao and the NTT are simultaneously mounting a campaign within the profession and with affected communities to ensure that the voice of this sector of the justice system will not be ignored.

Nadcao and the National Task Team on CBPs are hopeful that organisations will support the submission.

To sign our online petition, click here.

To request a copy of the submission to the Portfolio Committee on Justice, contact:

Thabiso Nyapisi
E-mail: resourcecentre@nadcao.org.za

For more information contact:

Seth Mnguni
National Task Team Spokesperson
National Alliance for the Development of Community Advice Offices
Mobile: 073 243 0758
E-mail: nwc@nadcao.org.za
 
Nomboniso Nangu Maqubela
National Alliance for the Development of Community Advice Offices
NADCAO Interim National Coordinator
Mobile: 071 918 1927
E-mail: nomboniso@nadcao.org.za

For more about National Alliance for the Development of Community Advice Offices, refer to www.nadcao.org.za.

To view other NGO press releases, refer to www.ngopulse.org/group/home-page/pressreleases.

Date published: 
25/07/2012
Organisation: 
National Alliance for the Development of Community Advice Offices (Nadcao)

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