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  Issue No. 2303 Online Edition Saturday 13 February 2016 
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Ascension : Public Solicitor on Ascension
Submitted by The Islander (Mario Anthony) 09.01.2014 (Article Archived on 23.01.2014)

I wanted to formerly introduce myself to members of the community, though many of you have already met me here or on St. Helena.

I wanted to formerly introduce myself to members of the community, though many of you have already met me here or on St. Helena.

I have been on Island over the last few weeks and I have enjoyed speaking to many and listening carefully to matters raised. A reoccurring issue has been the question of the independence of my office.

I have been in post on St. Helena since April 2011. I am independent of governments both here and on St. Helena.The integrity and independence of my office is something that is key to the post being successful. I am ably assisted by the unique system of Lay advocacy both here and on St. Helena.

As in the UK where publically funded lawyers receive payment from the Legal Services Commission, so on our two islands, The Public Solicitors Office is supported by the UK department for international development as part of the budgetary aid to St. Helena. I am not part of AIG or SHG.

I know the community will be aware of the exceptional contribution made by Caz Yon, Johhny Hobson and Martin Richardson in their roles of Lay Advocates. Lay Advocates are there to promote and advance the rights of those seeking assistance and representation. They are called upon at any time of day or night, they do this work tirelessly and voluntarily. I would personally thank them for their continuing hard work and look forward to working with and supporting them this year.

There are anticipated changes this year with the Lay Advocates and I am looking to recruit specifically a Saint Lay Advocate to ensure continuity of representation from someone who is likely to remain on Island for the longer term and from someone who is member of the majority of the population on Ascension Island. I reinforce that full training and support will be given.

I will be back on Ascension after a short trip to UK from 22 January until the RMS departs on 3 February. I would like to meet more members of the community and will hold an open advice session at the courthouse. The purpose is to meet and talk, for you to raise any issues of concern and importantly for me to listen to you. I will be available on Friday 24th January from 11-2pm and again from 3-6pm in the small office in the Court house. I am also available outside of those times if required. I am undertaking training for the Lay Advocates the following week, Mon-Fri at the court house.

I will provide further information at the end of my visit regarding the Lay Advocates and further matters of interest relating to my office.

Below is a brief overview relating to the Public Solicitors Office:

The Public Solicitors office was introduced in 1998. It was seen as a vital development in providing the Saint communities, first and foremost of St. Helena and Ascension Island with independent legal advice from a qualified lawyer.

The office was established in order to ensure (amongst other things) that the residents would have access to legal advice and be able to discretely instruct a lawyer to act for them, whether under arrest or in civil matters against either SHG or AIG. The Lay Advocates would on both islands undertake criminal representation and matters relating to disputes between individual members of the communities. The scope and work of the office is however very wide and I will comment more upon this in my next article.

I can be contacted entirely discretely and independently on Whilst on Ascension Island I can be contacted at the office at the courthouse on 6839 or on 6259.

Debbie Wahle


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