Malawi Bail Project

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Turpin Barker & Armstrong,1 Westmead Road


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The Malawi Bail Project is a UK registered charity that funds and delivers access to justice initiatives and activities in Malawi.    

Due to the lack of legal aid lawyers in Malawi, the majority of those arrested are brought to court without any legal representation and as a result, are unaware of the right to bail and how or when to exercise this right.  Consequently, bail applications are rarely made at the first court appearance and thousands of Malawians are unlawfully and unnecessarily detained for months or years without trial.  

Prisons across Malawi are severely overcrowded and conditions in the prisons are insanitary.  In Chichiri prison, one of the largest in the Southern Region, there are only two showers for two thousand men.  Cells built to hold 60 prisoners are currently holding over 200.  This leads to the inevitable spread of infectious disease, most commonly TB and HIV. Inmates are only given one small cup of Nsima (a maize based staple food) a day, depending on the prison budget.

We aim to educate those going through the court process in Malawi about their bail rights and reduce the number of people charged with minor/petty offences being imprisoned without trial.  To achieve these aims, we work in partnership with a Malawian NGO, the Centre for Human Rights, Education, Advice and Assistance (CHREAA - to carry out 6 key activities: 

1) Distribution of ‘Understanding Your Right to Bail’ booklets/posters to Magistrates’ Courts and Police Stations.  

2) Installation of speaker systems at police/court holding cells to play recorded audio tapes explaining how and when to apply for bail.

3) Discussion groups/trainings with Magistrates and Police Officers to explore ways of making the justice system more accessible for the poor and vulnerable.

4) Providing legal advice and assistance through our toll-free Paralegal Advice Line for detainees and family members of those arrested.

5) Facilitation of Camp Courts: These are special court sessions, where judges are brought to the prison to consider bail applications from those charged with minor offences or where the accused is particularly vulnerable

6) Community Theatre: MBP has partnered with Nkhokwe Arts Group, a group of ex-prisoner community mobilisers who use their theatre skills to educate communities and prisoners on their right to bail.

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