Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Samuel Tembenu has said there is no law that prevents lawyers from self-representing in criminal cases.
Tembenu said in parliament after Lilongwe Central MP Lobin Lowe of Malawi Congress Party (MCP) raised the issue if behaviour of some lawyers, “who are suspects and, under the laws of Malawi, are able to represent themselves and even represent other suspects in a similar case for example; the Cash gate. “
Former minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Ralph Kasambara is representing himself in a money laundering case involving him and five others.
Kasambara, now private practice lawyer, is also representing other suspects in the other cashgate cases.
Tembenu said under the laws of Malawi lawyers can represent themselves when they stand accused in criminal cases.
“There is really no law that prevents anybody from representing themselves in court. That is quite permissible,” said the Justice Minister.
When a lawyer is an accused and they are representing a co-accused person, Tembenu said it was an issue of ethics which the court can handle it.
“That is an ethical question that can be handled ably by the court in enforcing discipline among the lawyers that, where they see that there are some ethical issues out of that kind of scenario, the court on its own should be able to enforce discipline by reprimanding those who do that. If they do not do that, then it may be a representation of failure on the part of the system,” said Tembenu.
Tembenu said on the discipline of lawyers, the Law Commission has effectively discharged the responsibility in that, “they reviewed the Legal Education and Legal Practitioners Act and their recommendations on the review of the law, regarding legal practitioners, has already been considered by the Cabinet Committee on Legal Parliamentary and Constitutional Affairs and it will be pushed on to Cabinet. “
The Justice Minister added that in the review, the issue of discipline of lawyers has been enhanced.
“We have put mechanism like the complaints committee and also enhanced and improved the disciplinary measures that are taken against errant lawyers.
“ For the time being, the Law Society has its own disciplinary committee chaired by the Solicitor General and they look at matters of discipline regarding lawyers,” said Tembenu.
Law Society president John Suzi-Banda recently disclosed that the body is investigating 400 cases that date back to 2008 where lawyers are accused of duping clients’ of money for compensation while others are accused of overcharging.
“There is a special committee that is reviewing all the complaints that were made lodged and we have special funding to clear the cases,” Suzi-Banda said.
He said the suspected lawyers will undergo a disciplinary hearing chaired by the Solicitor General.
In critical theft cases, lawyers risk having their licences revoked as the disciplinary committee will be entitled to recommend to the Attorney General to make an application before the Chief Justice to have the lawyers’ licences revoked.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :