We are not in competition with the private Bar, says Ali

THE Legal Aid Commission is not in competition with the private sector, says acting director Shahin Ali.

Speaking at the commission’s new office opening in Tavua this week, Mr Ali said they provided a choice for people with regards to legal services.

“We now provide a choice to people and that choice is whether they want private legal representation or a Legal Aid lawyer who is equally competent,” he said.

“Therefore, we are not in competition with the private Bar as some have labelled us, but rather, we are an option. The decision rests with the client as to who he wants to represent him.”

Mr Ali said the Legal Aid Commission board was also instrumental in its endeavour to make legal services more accessible after relaxing the eligibility criteria to allow more Fijians to be eligible for assistance.

“Our Brief Out scheme allows parties to the same proceedings who qualify for Legal Aid assistance to be represented by Legal Aid while the second in time applicant will have his or her case handled by a private lawyer paid for by the Legal Aid Commission.

“The commission is the largest law firm in the country and has its branches in major towns and cities, including rural and remote areas of Fiji.

“In terms of outreach and impact, the Legal Aid Commission is out there providing the much needed legal services that the public demands.”