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BAKC vows to expand pro bono legal services

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BAKC officials hold a meeting to discuss expanding the scope of pro bono consultations for the poor last month. Photo supplied

BAKC vows to expand pro bono legal services

The Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia (BAKC) has vowed to expand the scope of pro bono defence consultations for the poor and called on lawyers around the country to participate in serving social justice and contribute to reducing the effects of poverty.

In a notice dated February 5, the BAKC noted progress it had already made in improving services for people who otherwise could not afford legal advice or representation and presented plans for a continued expansion of outreach.

The association’s refined policy focus aims expand availability of free legal consultations for the general public and free representation of the indigent and those without access to it.

BAKC president Ly Chantola told The Post: “Previously, we had focused primarily on people accused of felonies or minors involved with misdemeanours or felonies. But now, we will also protect victims, and in civil cases, we will offer assistance to those who are poor,” he said.

Chantola called on more lawyers to volunteer their time so that outstanding cases may be handled more quickly. He said 50 volunteer lawyers have signed on with their team so far.

“I call on all lawyers to provide [legal] advice for free and provide available dates and times to the BAKC for its announcement. The rich and the poor who want legal consultations can go to each pre-arranged place and time where volunteer lawyers are posted,” he said.

Lim Sambath, an attorney for VANNA & Associates Law Group, said he had once defended cases for the poor and expressed support for the BAKC’s programme. It will provide vital assistance for people without education or access to legal defence representation in court.

“Obviously, all aspiring lawyers studying as interns have an obligation to defend cases for the poor before they become rightful lawyers. This expansion of services will further improve effectiveness of help rendered to the poor,” he said.

The notice described target recipients under the programme as impoverished individuals suspected or accused of serious crimes or minors charged with felonies of misdemeanours.

Also encouraged to seek assistance are victims of felonies or misdemeanours who do not have means or access to secure legal representation, such as garment workers, women and children. Members of the general public are also eligible for legal consultations and are welcome to contact the BAKC.

The bar’s department for defending the poor explained that lawyers who are willing to volunteer should provide their names and case numbers along with locations of courts in which they agree to appear.

A list of available attorneys will be prepared for each locale, and people can reach volunteer attorneys on duty during regular business hours in the capital and some locations around the country by dialling “1281” for their designated hotline.

The department has previously handled cases involving women, minors, and the poor as well as crimes including rape, domestic violence and human trafficking.

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