This week, people across prisons in Kenya and Uganda have embarked on a three-week legal training programme.
Every quarter, we train both people in prison and prison officers to become paralegals. Enabling them to provide legal services for themselves and others. Ensuring everyone has access to legal information and a fair trial.
From drafting legal documents used in appeals, to explaining the process and customs of online court sessions to their peers, our paralegals are equipped with the law.
To ensure trainees are fully immersed into the legal world, even from behind prison bars, we bring together experts from across the judiciary.
In both Kenya and Uganda, magistrates joined initial training sessions. In Uganda, paralegals had the opportunity to hear directly from Her Worship, Irene Nambatya, a Magistrate at Makindye court who explained the right to bail: “I am privileged to have the opportunity to interact with Justice Defenders’ paralegals...
“Bail is based on the presumption that the accused person is innocent until proven guilty by the honourable court. Bail procedure is informal in the Magistrate courts. However, in the High court, it’s by notice of motion. The accused person can raise their hand during a court session and say he or she is applying for bail. It is at the court's disposal to examine the sureties (funds) provided by the accused.
“In an event that the accused person fails to appear in court without informing them, the court will issue a criminal summon to the accused person asking him or her to attend court. A person can apply for bail at any time before the matter is concluded. The money used in bail can be refunded to the accused person after conclusion of the matter.”
Paralegals also heard from Her Worship Rose Mary Bareebe, the registrar in charge of magisterial affairs in Uganda, who explained the appeal process: “Any person convicted by a court has a right to appeal against his or her conviction or sentence. Cases are reviewed by a higher court, where parties request a formal change to an official decision made by the lower court."
In Kenya, students started their training by learning about the law-making process, the structure and jurisdictions of court in the country. Alongside the rights of an arrested, accused and convicted person, including equality, dignity, and freedom from torture.
During the training, legal experts from across the judicial system offered their support and praised Justice Defenders’ ongoing work. Chairperson of the National Committee on Criminal Justice Reforms in Kenya, Lady Justice Grace Ngenye said: “Paralegals play a fundamental role in assisting disadvantaged persons assert their rights during interactions with police, prosecutors and the courts… I would like to commend the work of Justice Defenders for their role in the criminal justice reforms process.”
Chief Magistrate Abdiqadir Lorot, and chairman of the working group for the Court Users Committees in Kenya, spoke about the importance of digital justice: “We have identified Justice Defenders as our leading agency for the provision of virtual courts.”
During the Covid-19 pandemic, with limited physical access to prisons, and restricted movement, the work of our trained paralegals has been even more crucial. We’ve worked with urgency to bring court sessions and legal training online. Ensuring the wheels of justice are able to keep turning as more paralegals are trained to provide free legal services from within prison walls.
Find out more about Justice Defenders’ paralegal training work.