Legal aid for the mentally ill

THE Legal Aid Council (LAC) is reiterating its commitment to providing legal representation, especially to persons incarcerated who are mentally ill.

This forms part of the mandate of the council which was established to administer an efficient and coordinated legal aid system in Jamaica that benefits all.

Legal officer with the council, Kerona Spence said that every day there are new persons coming before the court unfit to plead as a result of mental illness.

“The work we do for the mentally ill ensures that these persons coming before the courts are represented. This is an ongoing process where the court would make contact with us, assign an attorney or they make contact with the LAC for the council to do the assignment. So whenever they have a court date, the attorney would be present,” Spence said

She noted that in previous years training would be held for attorneys assigned to these matters. “We are hoping to have another training session sometime in the next financial year. As it stands, the mentally ill would just be presented at court and the attorneys, who would have done their research, would make representation on behalf of the client. What the Legal Aid Council wants to [see] happen is that for every person who goes before the court and is not able to afford legal representation, that we fill that need and provide the representation,” Spence noted.

“But based on past reports involving the mentally ill, we specifically go out and ensure that these persons going before the court do not go back in their respective prison without having an attorney assigned to them,” she added.

In the meantime, Spence is encouraging persons who have family members who have been incarcerated and are mentally ill to contact the LAC by calling 876 967-1372, visiting the LAC’s website at legalaidcouncil.moj.gov.jm or emailing them at Aid.legal@moj.gov.jm.

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