Thousands of hard-up Batswana with nowhere to turn when in trouble may soon benefit from a new service offering legal aid. Government is planning to pilot a legal aid project to help Batswana who cannot afford legal representation.
Local lawyers may also come to appreciate that crime does pay with the anticipated increase in workload from the taxpayer funded legal aid.
The interim Legal Aid Coordinator at the Attorney General’s chambers, Peter Brits, confirmed to The Telegraph that the pilot programme will start in July “If it goes well then the scheme will be rolled out to all the districts of the country,” he said.
He explained that the Botswana government has financed the pilot project to the tune of P7m whilst the United Nations Development Fund has contributed 90 000 US dollars. The scheme will not cover foreigners who commit crime in the country.
Brits said some lawyers from the AG’s Chambers will be seconded work for the project and private practitioners who have completed their 40 hours free work will be engaged at reduced rate. The move has been welcomed by a number of private practitioners who say justice will no longer be priced out of reach of poor Batswana.
In the past, advocate Peter Collins has complained that the justice playing field is not level and the poor are having the worst of it.
He cited the high number of appellants at the Court of Appeal who were losing their cases because they could not afford legal representation.
The current system is also being blamed for the overcrowding in Botswana prisons as underprivileged Batswana always end up behind bars even for frivolous offences.