Saint Lucia’s Attorney General, Kim St Rose, has told the opening today for the new law year that high legal costs contribute to inaccessibility to the courts and justice at times.
The opening ceremony included the traditional inspection of a police guard of honour on the grounds of the National Cultural Centre.
Addressing legal minds who gathered later in the Centre, St Rose said those who attended the weekend OECS Bar conference would be able to attest to the cost of the books which were available for purchase.
St Rose described the cost as being “significant” although the items were free of customs duties.
“The cost of keeping up to date with the law in part contributes to the high cost of legal services,” the Attorney General said.
She said that unfortunately, she could not attempt to chastise her colleagues in that regard, because the cost of legal education, legal books and insurance for those who can afford it is high, while aesthetic premises come at a cost.
St Rose noted that only the client can bear the cost.
“It stands to reason that low earners who may have genuine issues to be resolved increasingly cannot afford legal services – even people with relatively good jobs find it difficult to countenance the cost of legal services,” she observed.
The Attorney General noted that although some legal aid is available, the question must be asked whether there are many takers in terms of the providers, or whether the processes to access the aid are too complex.
She said there seem to be so many persons in need of legal assistance but cannot obtain it for one reason or another.
St Rose spoke of remand prisoners who have been denied bail or perhaps cannot get someone to bail them while being unable to afford legal representation.
She asserted that this was an area in need of attention in terms of their accessibility to courts.
“Invariably these people spend excessively long periods incarcerated while the presumption of innocence is still guaranteed in their favour,” the Attorney General observed.
She said the access of such persons to the timely disposition of their matters, or conversely, inability to achieve an early trial amounts to a court which is inaccessible.