𝐀 – 𝐌𝐀𝐆𝐈𝐒𝐓𝐑𝐀𝐓𝐄𝐒
Cameroon has four categories of magistrates
– Presiding magistrate/judge
– Examining magistrate
– State counsel
– Attorney General
Presiding magistrates / Judges: These magistrates act as referees between parties in matters brought before the court. They sit in court, hear matters and take decisions on them. In the courts of first instance, these magistrates are called presiding magistrates. In the High Courts and Higher Courts, they are called Judges.
Examining Magistrates: These are magistrates who carry out criminal investigations (preliminary inquiry) in felonious offenses, all offenses committed by persons below 18 years and in some misdemeanors.
Anyone may decide not to lodge a complaint with the judicial police officer but instead lodge a complaint directly with the Examining magistrate. Examining Magistrates are found in the courts of First Instance, High Courts and Military Courts.
The preliminary inquiry is not open to the public. Only parties involved in the inquiry are allowed to attend the inquiry. However, the examining magistrates may at their discretion allow any other person to attend the inquiry.
State Counsel: These magistrates are in charge of enforcing laws, regulations and judgments and control criminal investigations and prosecution in their geographical area of competence.
In the execution of their functions, the State Counsel amongst other things receives complaints, issues warrants of arrest, search warrants and control Judicial Police cells to make sure that suspects are detained in respect of the Law. They are the bosses of Judicial police officers in their area of competence as far as criminal investigations are concerned.
The State Counsel is assisted by a deputy state counsel. The office of the State Counsel is called the State Counsel’s Chambers.
Attorney General: Each of the 10 Regions of Cameroon has an Attorney General. The Attorney General is in charge of the enforcement of laws, regulations and judgments and oversees criminal investigations in his region. He is the boss of all the State Counsel in his region.
The Attorney General is assisted in his job by the Advocate General and the Substitute General. The State Counsel’s Chambers and the Attorney General’s chambers are both referred to as the Legal Department.
𝐁 – 𝐑𝐄𝐆𝐈𝐒𝐓𝐑𝐀𝐑𝐒
They receive and direct the public to the various services of the courts and legal department as well as other judicial services.
They act as clerks of court during trials and registrars in attendance at preliminary inquiries. They keep registers.
𝐂– 𝐉𝐔𝐃𝐈𝐂𝐈𝐀𝐋 𝐏𝐎𝐋𝐈𝐂𝐄 𝐎𝐅𝐅𝐈𝐂𝐄𝐑𝐒
They consist of police, gendarmes (Note should be taken here that not all police and gendarmerie staff are judicial police officers. Only those empowered by law to investigate offenses are judicial police officers) and staff of certain departments (e.g. the Ministry of Environment and Nature Protection, the Ministry of Forestry and Wild Life etc) who are empowered by the law to carry out investigations in criminal matters.)
They are officers in charge of serving court processes like summons. They are also in charge of the execution of decisions of the court. They also draw up reports on events.
They are in charge of drawing up deeds e.g. for the sale of landed property. In the South West and North West Regions, lawyers in addition to their other functions act as notaries.
𝐅 – 𝐋𝐀𝐖𝐘𝐄𝐑𝐒
They advise, assist or represent their clients. They ensure their defense. The client can be:
· an accused in a criminal case
· the victim of an offense
· a person instituting a civil matter
· a person defending a civil matter
· or anybody in need of legal advice
The lawyer exercises a liberal profession. The resort to a lawyer is not obligatory. It all depends on the litigant. The lawyer is paid by his client. However in certain cases the state pays the lawyer on behalf of the litigant.
Generally in criminal or civil matters, where a person is too poor to afford a lawyer, he can apply to the Legal Aid Commission for a lawyer to be appointed to represent his interest. The Legal Aid Commission will only grant the application in fit cases as required by law.
However, the appointment of a lawyer for the accused person by the judge is mandatory in criminal cases where a person is charged with an offense punishable with life imprisonment or death and cannot pay a lawyer to defend him.
Where an accused is below 18 years and has no lawyer, the presiding magistrate or judge must assign one to him or her. The appointed lawyer is paid by the State. Note that the above organization is how it is supposed to be and not necessarily what it is today.