Over 700 persons benefit from legal aid in first half of 2020

The Guyana Legal Aid Clinic (GLAC) has provided its services to 765 persons from January to June 2020, spanning four regions.
This is according to statistics published by the Clinic, which has operations at King and Charlotte Streets, Georgetown, Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica); Anna Regina Essequibo, Region Two (Pomeroon-Supernaam); Fort Wellington, West Coast Berbice, Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice), and Vryman’s Erven, New Amsterdam, Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne).
The figures show that 128 persons, of which 74 accounted for males, were seen by the Region Two office. A total of 531 persons, of which 353 were female, were seen at the Georgetown office. Over at the Region Five office, 23 persons received assistance, of which 15 were females, while 83 individuals received support from the Region Six office; 48 of them were females.
The Guyana Legal Aid Clinic predominantly dealt with civil matters including divorce, domestic violence, Deed Polls and Affidavit, division of property, custody, and access, trespass, employment, landlord and tenant, property disputes, prescriptive titles, injunction, tenant, bigamy personal injury/death claims, among others.
Criminal matters which persons sought assistance with include: murder, manslaughter, robbery, theft, narcotics, assault, threatening language, rape, carnal knowledge, disorderly behaviour, and firearm. In cases where persons did not qualify for legal aid, they were referred to the private Bar.
When compared to statistics for the period last year, it shows the Clinic helped 1592 persons.
The Guyana Legal Aid Clinic (formerly Georgetown Legal Aid Clinic) is a non-governmental, non-profit making, non-partisan organisation that provides legal aid to persons who cannot afford to employ the services of a member of the private Bar.
It opened its doors in March 1994 and receives an annual subvention from the Government. It also receives funding from USAID, the British Government, the Canada Fund, Computer Aid International, individuals, and the business community.
Some of its objectives include the provision of public education about the basic legal rights and duties and the legal process and collaborating and networking with the Government and NGOs providing similar or complementary services. It has a complement of nine attorneys-at-law and is governed by a Board of Directors.

UNDP on legal aid
Guyana has a legal aid clinic that receives an annual subvention from the Government which covers most of their expenditure. Other sources of financing are from donations including the Rights of the Child Commission to assist with representation of children and from clients who are assessed as being able to contribute toward the cost of their legal representation.
Their services are available free of charge to all children and adults who are assessed as being eligible for legal aid in that they cannot afford to pay more than 75 per cent of the amount they would have to pay to a member of the private Bar.
As noted in Guyana’s Voluntary National Report, “the legal aid programme, in particular, provides assistance to persons accused of minor, non-violent offences currently in pre-trial detention.”
The legal aid programme comprises a team of lawyers and paralegals who seek the dismissal of charges, arranging diversion where appropriate or arguing for bail, and generally avoiding procedural delays. In addition to Georgetown, legal aid services can be accessed at offices at Anna Regina, Essequibo Coast; Vryman’s Erven, New Amsterdam, Berbice and Fort Wellington, West Coast Berbice.
The view has been expressed that the number of prisoners on remand are affected by lack of access to legal counsel. It is recommended to make legal aid universally accessible to all geographic locations including to hinterland communities. (Shemar Alleyne)