30 Jan 2019

Samoa legal aid to be focussed exclusively on criminal cases

8:18 am on 30 January 2019

The Samoa government is seeking to make access to legal aid exclusive to people facing criminal charges.

An amendment before parliament cites the high cost of providing the service as the main reason behind the change.

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Photo: supplied

Justice minister Faaolesa Katopau Ainu'u said the Community Law Centre's budget of $US76,945 was not enough to cover public representation for clients in both civil and criminal matters.

Faaolesa also pointed out that according to Samoa's constitution it is only mandatory to provide legal aid for people facing criminal charges.

Speaking in support of the move prime minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi also called for stricter monitoring of the service saying some lawyers were abusing the system.

"These are the same lawyers manipulating the system by encouraging clients to sue the government knowing full well that it's a lost cause for their clients but a sure pay check from the legal aid assistance funded by taxpayers," Tuilaepa said.

"That in my book is a devious crime that should be discontinued."