Legal practitioners call for free legal services for indigent prison inmates

prisonSome lawyers in Lagos have urged their colleagues in the profession to help decongest the nation’s prisons, by rendering free legal services to indigent prison inmates.

The lawyers told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Lagos that if more lawyers undertook to provide probono (free) services for inmates, it would help reduce overcrowding in the prisons.

A lawyer and civil rights activist, Mr Justice Chimezie said that some accused persons in prison custody desired free legal representation.

He said that a handful of such accused persons could not afford to pay for the services of a lawyer, and so, were forced to remain in custody unrepresented.

Chimezie pointed out that if every lawyer undertook to represent an accused, it would go a long way to facilitate dispensation of justice and help to reduce the number of inmates in the prisons.

He urged legal practitioners to make their impact felt in the profession, by providing legal assistance to prison inmates.

Speaking along the same vein, another lawyer and social critic, Mr Anthony Makolo, also urged his colleagues to assist in bringing hope to indigent inmates, who could not afford to pay for their legal services.

He said that most lawyers were reluctant to undertake probono cases, either due to the existence of the Legal Aid Council, or the Office of the Public Defender.

He said that although these units had a duty of securing free representation for accused persons, there was still room for the provision of more legal services for inmates.

He insisted that the task of providing probono services for accused persons could not be left entirely to the units, adding that every lawyer was a stakeholder.

“I think every lawyer should be able to take up at least one case free of charge each year; this will assist in reducing the number of inmates lingering in custody,” he said

Also speaking, Mr Peter Ohazuruike, a lawyer, commended his colleagues who strive to undertake the defence of accused persons who could not afford their legal fees.

He declared that the desire to undertake free legal representation of accused persons should be of paramount concern to lawyers.

He urged lawyers to promote the cause of justice and make their impact felt in the dispensation of justice.



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