This study was commissioned by the Legal Aid Service Providers Network (LASPNET) and was funded by Democratic Governance Facility (DGF). It assesses the costs and benefits of implementing the national legal aid policy and is partly an analysis of what needs to be done to establish a publicly funded national legal aid scheme.
The report is underpinned by significant contributions, including previous studies examining issues of legal aid in Uganda by: the LASPNET, Justice Centres Uganda (JCU), Paralegal Advisory Services (PAS), Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI), the Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS), Uganda Police Force (UPF), Court of Judicature, and Legal Aid South Africa. In addition, the authors are grateful to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) for permission to access the 2013 National Governance Baseline Survey.
A large section of the Ugandan society cannot afford legal services due to conditions of extreme deprivation. For instance, women from the poorest households are more likely to be victims of domestic violence and, as such, are in dire need of Legal Aid. Over the years, the poor have benefited from legal aid services, mainly through non-state actors; nonetheless, only about one out of every five persons seeking legal aid received the services. In a bid to comprehensively address the legal aid needs of Ugandans, the Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS) and its partners developed the National Legal Aid Policy (NLAP) in 2012.
The policy proposes to change the current legal aid architecture through the adoption of a mixed legal aid delivery model as well as the expansion of access to legal aid services through use of paralegals and students in law clinics and in partnership with civil society. A major hallmark for the policy is the establishment of an independent National Legal Aid Body (NLAB) to oversee the rollout and delivery of a comprehensive legal aid package across Uganda. The legal aid body would have a governing board composed of both state and non state actors. The delivery of legal aid services by the NLAB could be either directed through established structures or non-state cooperating partners. The NLAP places great emphasis on promoting early access to dispute resolution mechanisms. As such, community paralegals are highlighted as one of the key mechanism that offer the best opportunity for quick dispute resolution.
Adoption of the NLAP undoubtedly would be a turning point—that triggers public investment in the provision of legal aid services. There are immense benefits from implementing the proposed NLAP. First, it would reduce the average cost of providing legal aid services. Second, with an expanded publically provided legal aid scheme, it is unlikely that the case backlog in the judiciary will be substantially reduced. Finally, having legal aid service providers accessible across the country would reduce the perceived or actual corrupt practices associated with the courts.
The proposed NLAP is currently in the pipeline for its adoption by the Government of Uganda (GoU), and it has not progressed to Parliament for the last two years. It is awaiting the certificate of financial implication from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development before its adoption by the Cabinet. The Legal Aid Service Providers Network (LASPNET) through it activities of supporting policy reform and promoting evidence based advocacy in setting the legal aid agenda undertook a Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) study of the NLAP. The objective was to provide information for the government to make an informed decision. The study outlines some of the major costs and benefits of investing in legal aid in the medium term.
[Adopted from the Cost Benefit Analysis of the Legal Aid Policy Report published in May 2016 by Legal Aid Service Provider's Network / LASPNET in partnership with the Justice, Law and Order Sector / JLOS]