More to benefit from family law reforms and criminal legal aid

Enhancement of Criminal Legal Aid Scheme

The government has announced in Parliament that it will enhance criminal legal aid by providing funding to the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme (“CLAS”), which is administered by the Law Society.

This is a shift in government policy as it did not fund defendants in criminal law cases in the past. The government funding will allow the CLAS scheme to serve up to 6,000 accused persons each year.

The other channel through which the government dispenses legal aid is the Ministry of Law’s Legal Aid Bureau, which does not handle criminal cases. Both schemes are intended to help those who cannot afford a lawyer, and applicants will have to undergo means testing.

The official launch of CLAS will take place on 23 March 2015.

Simplified Family Law Processes

The family justice system has been undergoing reform and the Family Justice Courts was recently set up. The reforms include simplified processes and a judge-led approach, as opposed to the adversarial approach where lawyers play bigger roles. Applicants can expect a greater emphasis on family mediation and on the appointment of Child Representatives. These should result in a reduction in costs and greater protection for the children, as it prevents the court from being a place where the parties vent their emotions.