JIS News

The Legal Aid Council has embarked on a duty counsel sensitisation programme, which is aimed at ensuring that the rights of citizens, who are detained or arrested, are fully observed, including their right to legal advice and representation.
Executive Director of the Legal Aid Council, Hugh Faulkner, told JIS News, that the outreach is targeting law enforcement officers in the first instance, but court officers and other stakeholders in the justice system, will also be visited.
“We are mapping a tour to the various stations and we will also be seeking to [visit] the Police Academy once the requisite authority is given,” he said.
“We are seeking to ensure that the officer, who comes new on the beat understands his duty.a person who is detained has (a right to) duty counsel services…we have been doing media interviews to promote, to let it become part of the law enforcement process of Jamaica, to let our citizens have representation,” he stated.
Mr. Faulkner informed that already, the team from the Legal Aid Council has visited the Constant Spring Police station “where we met the superintendent and his team of officers who are on the frontline, sub officers etc. We addressed them just to sensitise them and they were quite receptive (to observing) the rights of citizens, since it does nothing against their investigations to ensure that justice is done.”
Every citizen of Jamaica, who is taken into custody by the police and does not have his or her own private attorney, is entitled to duty counsel, which is an attorney provided for him by the State, up until his first court date.
According to Mr. Faulkner, at the end of the outreach, it is hoped that there will be an increase in duty counsel applications. “We are targeting a minimum increase of 5 per cent (which) we believe would be reasonable to attribute some success to our promotional scheme,” he stated.
In the meantime, the Legal Aid Council’s Executive Director urged the police not to see the visits as an indictment against them.
“Sometimes, when you come to promote the programme they (police) believe it is an indication that they have not been (using duty counsel). We are there to promote the programme, we are not making any judgement call on your station.and we are trying to persuade in the most amicable way, the value of every citizen to have the right to duty counsel,” he asserted.
Up to the end of March last year, 455 persons had applied for duty counsel services. The Legal Aid Council is the body established under the Legal Aid Act, to administer and supervise legal aid across the island.