Legal Aid Reforms of 1967

 The Legal Aid Act of  1967 radically changed the entire system of legal aid in Zambia. Prior to 1967 there was no provision for the granting of legal aid in civil matters nor was there a provision for issuance of a defence certificate. These inadequacies in the old legal aid system were addressed in the Act of 1967

Legal Aid Act 1967

In 1965, a Cabinet sub-committee was appointed under the Chairmanship of the then Minister of Justice, Mr. James Skinner. Its terms of reference were to consider the introduction of a comprehensive scheme for legal aid in both civil and criminal matter. The recommendation of the sub-committee was for the establishment of a Department of Legal Aid and the provision of legal services salaried lawyers in full time employment of the Government. The scheme was approved in principle by Cabinet and the first Director of Legal Aid, Mr. Daley, was appointed in October 1966. Zambia was one of the first countries in Africa to introduce a Legal Aid Scheme. There was as expected some initial criticism of the proposed legal aid system mainly from private legal practitioners. This criticism was on the basis that the employment of defence counsel and prosecutors by a “common master” (the State) was objectionable in principle and had a potential for a conflict of interest. It is also worth mentioning that initially the Department of Legal Aid was under the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare.

Legal Aid Operations

The Department of Legal Aid started its operations with the lawyers consisting of the Director and two others. By 1971 and 1972 there were two professional staff on the establishment. They were assisted by some trainee lawyers called Legal Aid Assistants. The first Legal Aid office was opened in Lusaka in 1967 and the Ndola office in August 1967. In January 1971, Kitwe and Livingstone offices were opened. Due to a shortage of lawyers, the Kitwe office was closed down in 1972. It was later re-opened in the early 1990’s, in 1992 the Mongu and Kasama offices were opened for the first time.

In accordance with section 7 of the Act, Legal Aid committees were established in all districts of the country and the District Secretaries of the Legal Aid Committees. The provision for Legal Aid Committees was subsequently repealed