With the high costs of legal fees, some people have no choice but to turn to SA Legal Aid, is this a good or bad idea? When it comes to the law, there is no messing around, but many people lack the education to defend and know their rights. Hiring a lawyer is expensive, so legal aid clinics make it much easier for people in South Africa to gain access to legal representation.
What is legal aid?
Legal aid is when people who cannot afford legal representation are provided with free legal assistance. Legal aid is an important way for a country to ensure equality before the law, the right to a fair trial, and the right to counsel. In South Africa, legal aid was established by the Legal Aid Acts (Act 20 and Act 22 of 1969). The Constitutions states that every citizen should have access to justice, so legal aid acts as a means by which indigent individuals can be represented at the expense of the State.
What issues can legal aid be applied to?
- You can get advice on any service at the following courts:
- Children and child justice
- Sexual offences
- Legal aid is a way of protecting the rights enshrined in the constitution, giving the poor professional legal services at no cost.
- Because legal aid is free, it is accessible to those who would otherwise not be able to afford legal representation.
- Legal Aid South Africa aims to instil empowerment, accountability and strived to embody a caring passion for justice and integrity.
- Legal aid provides for the rights of children.
- Legal aid can be applied to a number of legal advice issues and can assist with the proceedings in most courts.
- If you do not qualify for legal aid, the association will be able to assist you in finding a relevant course of action.
- Legal aid is free.
- To qualify for legal aid you need to earn less than R5000 per month. This means that people who are still within a lower income bracket (but earn more than R5000) may battle to afford legal representation.
- Due to high volumes of work, legal aid clinics may take longer to process representation needs.
- The staff at legal aid clinics may not have the same expertise or experience as paid lawyers and attorney. Often, legal aid clinic staff is made up of university students who are studying for their law degrees. This also means that the time they have available is limited as they also need to dedicate themselves to their studies.
So, SA Legal Aid – good or bad idea? Essentially, legal aid appears to be a good idea, helping those who are unable to afford private legal representation. However, legal aid does have its limitations and may not always be as good in practice as it looks on paper. The staff may be inexperienced or the aid applications may take some time to process.
For many people in South Africa, the Legal Aid Board and legal aid clinics are their only port of call when it comes to legal matters, so despite any limitations, the existence of this kind of public facility is ultimately a good idea, helping the constitution to be realised and adhered to.
If an attorney is out of your reach and you need advice in family, criminal or civil legal matters, you can contact the Legal Aid Board. To contact Legal Aid South Africa, the organisation can be reached toll free on 0800 110 110, or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also visit the Justice Centre nearest to you, a community legal aid clinic, or a legal aid clinic at a university close to you for help with legal matters.