Paralegals need formal recognition in Africa

A regional conference held in Malawi, the birthplace of paralegalism, called upon states to recognise and support the key role played by paralegals in the criminal justice system. The conference proceedings were facilitated by ACJR researcher Jean Redpath.

The Regional Conference on the Formal Recognition of Criminal Justice Paralegals, from 9 to 10 November 2017 in Lilongwe, Malawi, was organised and hosted by Malawi's PASI (Paralegal Advisory Services Institute), which under Clifford Msiska has played a key role in bringing paralegalism to countries across Africa. 

The conference called on governments urgently to enact and implement laws that expressly guarantee the right to legal aid, formally recognise paralegals and oblige relevant Government agencies to grant recognised paralegals access to any person who is in conflict with the law for purposes of providing that person legal advice and other assistance. 

The conference also agreed that governments should also provide reasonable resources to legal aid providers, including providers of paralegal services, while ensuring that the provision of such funding does not compromise the operational independence of the providers and seeks to promote the sustainability of the provision of legal aid services. Further, providers of paralegal services should develop and enforce accreditation and monitoring schemes to ensure the quality of paralegal services provided are consistent with the optimal protection and enforcement of the rights people in conflict with the law. 

Providers of paralegal services should actively seek the support of professional bodies of lawyers, judiciaries and other relevant stakeholders for paralegalism and lobby them to recognise paralegals as an integral part of the criminal justice system.

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