Judge: No pro bono for the accused

National, Normal

The National, Tuesday 09th April, 2013


A JUDGE has advised a law firm that providing a pro bono service to accused people in court amounts to a breach of the Constitution.

Justice George Manuhu told a lawyer from the law firm Paul Paraka Lawyers representing a man facing sex-related charges, that the accused must pay fees first to the law firm to engage its services. 

Pro bono is defined as (especially legal work) “done without asking for payment”. 

Manuhu told the lawyer that he would not hear him as the defence counsel unless the accused paid the law firm some fees to engage its services.

The public prosecution said the man was in court accused of the sexual abuse of a child.

The judge advised the accused to instead seek legal aid from the public solicitor’s office.

He said the constitution provided that lawyers were to be paid for providing legal services. 

And if someone could not afford that, he or she would be identified as “persons in need of legal aid”.

He said these persons would seek help from the public solicitor’s office.

“While lawyers are saying it’s free, we know Paraka Lawyers are expanding,” Manuhu said.

“If someone says he’s on a diet but is gaining weight, he must be eating.”

He said the law firm was saying it was providing free service but it was hard to provide free service.

He said something “mysterious” was happening.

“Are you providing pro bono service or are you collecting money from someone?” Manuhu asked the lawyer.

“When Paul Paraka Lawyers came in, it started weakening the powers of the public solicitor’s office.

“This pro bono service has been around for a while.”

Manuhu advised the accused to get legal representation from the public solicitor’s office or if he decided to use Paraka Lawyers, he should have to pay them.

He confirmed that the accused did not work and did not have money in his bank account.

Justice Panuel Mogish has raised similar concerns over the pro bono service at a National Court criminal call over.