Provision of paralegal services has been CHREAA’s major business since May 2000. CHREAA participates in a DFID-funded program called Paralegal Advisory Service (PAS) in which the organization operates in 7 prisons of the southern region of Malawi. The goal of the project is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system in Malawi, making it responsive to the needs of all users, especially the poor and vulnerable groups.
The CHREAA has been successful in providing appropriate legal advice and assistance to those in prison. The paralegals have developed their services further in the police stations and courts and promote linkages with traditional fora to facilitate the settlement of disputes in line with s 161 Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code.
CHREAA has been offering the following services:
• Holding paralegal clinics in prisons to show how the law works and how prisoners can access it and represent themselves
• Linking up the criminal justice system
• Informing justice policy
The paralegals have been visiting local TAs and observed ADR methods applied in the villages and explore joint ventures with the local court in terms of:
• Raising awareness on the meaning and application of ‘bail’ (namely, by encouraging courts to hear the views of the community in determining whether or not to grant bail; and on the other hand informing community leaders on the meaning of bail and notifying them of the return date so that they can a) ensure the offender abides by any conditions the court may set and b) ensure that the offender appears for trial or on the next return date);
• Referring appropriate cases from the court back to the community (initially in juvenile cases deemed suitable for ‘diversion’);
• Encouraging greater participation by the community in the criminal justice process.