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Legal Aid Center

On November 27, 1981, the Legal Aid Center was opened in Belize City to serve the legal needs of the poor. The Center administers legal aid and provides legal advice, assistance, referral and representation for those who are eligible. The center is geared towards low-income persons who meet eligibility guidelines and handles a full range of case types and services. General cases include family, land, civil and estate matters. Murder, civil matters that exceed $20,000, and company and other commercial matters are excluded from the center's jurisdiction.

The type of service provided by the center depends largely on the type of legal problem facing the individual client. Most clients get immediate advice on their problem, including things they could do in order to resolve the problem on their own. Others are referred to an agency or service which can more appropriately resolve their immediate crisis or long-term problems.

The Center is governed by a local Board of Directors. While initially 51% of this Board was comprised of Bar Association Members, today the Bar Association makes up the entire Board. While the Center is usually staffed by one full-time attorney, a secretary, and an office manager, at present only an office manager is on staff at the Center. The Bar Association has plans to implement a mandatory roster system at the center to ensure that an attorney is present at all times.

The Legal Aid Center was initially funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Caribbean Justice Improvement Project (CJIP), the Canadian University Services Overseas (CUSO), and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Today, the Center is funded completely by the Bar Association. There is also a $20 consultation fee, which is discretionary and is based on the matter at hand and the person's financial capability. This assists with the operational expenses.

The Legal Aid Center is located in the Sir Albert Staine Building, 1 Treasury Lane, Belize City.

Supreme Court's Legal Aid

In capital cases, legal aid is provided by the Registrar of the Supreme Court. In such cases, the Registrar appoints an attorney to act on the accused's behalf. The maximum fee paid to such attorney is $1,000 BZE, which covers a retainer fee as well as a per diem allowance.

:: Copyright 2007::