Dear Mirror Lawyer, I am a Class Two teacher in the Ejisu Local Authority Primary School in the Ashanti Region. I recently moved to Ejisu after being appointed as a teacher there.
I rented a single room bedroom accommodation one-and-a-half months ago to stay in while there. One Saturday while I was sleeping in my room. I heard a knock on my door and the knocker introduced himself to me as an Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) worker who was patrolling the area for illegal connections of meters.
After briefly inspecting my meter, he concluded that my meter had been subjected to illegal connection and that I was using electricity for free. I was shortly after reported to the police and was arrested as the ECG personnel insisted I had been enjoying many months of free electricity. I am currently out on bail, awaiting to be heard in court.
Lawyer, I was not the perpetrator of this act and I believe I can make my own case in court without the help of a lawyer because I lack the money to hire one. I also believe my innocence can easily be established by proving to the judge that I moved to the room less than two months ago and cannot be the one responsible for this rigged meter. Any advice on my concerns will be appreciated, Lawyer.
Abeiku Martey, Ejisu
Dear Abeiku, To delve directly into resolving your issues, I believe you cannot be stopped by anyone if you maintain that you wish to defend yourself in court without a lawyer. In fact, Article 19 (2) (f) of the 1992 Constitution states clearly that a person charged with a criminal offence shall be permitted to defend himself before the court in person or by a lawyer of his choice.
Therefore, should you so desire, you will be heard in court as you appear to defend yourself. This is known as litigant or accused in person.
However, I will urge you to explore the use of the Legal Aid Commission free legal services as a viable alternative for hiring your own lawyer because criminal charges have been made against you. Another reason for my suggestion is the fact that you do not have the money to hire a lawyer.
When you find yourself in this situation, applying to the Legal Aid Office is the next best thing for you. The services rendered by legal aid are provided for by the Constitution, 1992. Article 294 mandates Parliament by an Act to regulate the grant of legal aid by the provision of legal representation and assistance by a lawyer for the purposes of enforcing any provision of this Constitution.
The Constitution says a person is entitled to legal aid in connection with any proceedings relating to the Constitution if he has reasonable grounds for taking, defending, prosecuting or being a party to the proceedings. In 2018, Parliament passed the Legal Aid Commission Act 977 with the objective to provide legal aid to an indigent, and a person who has reasonable grounds to take, defend, prosecute or be a party to proceedings related to a provision of the constitution.
I would advise that you apply for legal aid because as a lay person in matters of the law, you are not in a good position to determine how strong or otherwise your defence is. In fact, you may have a good defence but may be incriminated by something else completely unknown to you.
Thus, bringing a lawyer on board to consider the matter would be the best solution. The Legal Aid programme provides you with a lawyer with very subsidised or no financial obligation in engaging the lawyer.