Written answer by Minister for Law, K Shanmugam, to Parliamentary Question on Legal Assistance Available During Circuit Breaker
04 May 2020 Posted in Parliamentary speeches and responses
Ms Rahayu Mahzam (Member of Parliament)
To ask the Minister for Law in light of the circuit breaker and the suspension of physical legal clinics (a) what are the efforts to ensure that those who need urgent legal advice are able to receive assistance; and (b) whether the Ministry looking at coordinating more specific guidance or legal support for those who may be affected by the COVID-19 crisis such as tenants, landlords, and businesses.
The Ministry of Law and many of our partners continue to provide legal services during the circuit breaker period.
(a) The Legal Aid Bureau continues to provide legal advice, legal assistance, and legal aid on civil matters, to Singapore citizens and Permanent Residents with limited means.
(b) Accused persons with limited means may also continue to apply for criminal legal aid from Law Society Pro Bono Services (LSPBS) for matters which the Courts continue to hear.
(c) Persons in need of legal assistance may also seek help from Law Society’s Community Legal Clinics as well as several other legal clinics.
Given the need to reduce movement of people, services will be delivered remotely via video conferencing, email or telephone, where possible. In addition, members of public can access various online tools that provide useful legal information. For example, the iLAB chatbot on the Legal Aid Bureau’s website provides tailored legal information on divorce and family violence. It is also able to generate simple legal documents for those who can self-help. Another example is the Community Justice Centre’s Automated Court Document Assembly and Generation, which provides step-by-step guidance on filing certain court forms.
Ms Rahayu also asked about the Ministry’s efforts at coordinating specific legal support for those affected by COVID-19. There are two aspects to our efforts.
First, we are supporting law practices in their continued provision of legal services during the circuit breaker period. The Ministry of Law has worked with the Ministry of Trade & Industry to allow the continued provision of urgent and essential legal services1. For all other legal activities, where law practices may need to work from their office on an exceptional basis, they may apply for time-limited exemptions as and when necessary. This is to enable law practices to continue serving the urgent legal needs of citizens and businesses.
Second, we are coordinating measures to provide relief via legislation to individuals and businesses. One such example is the relief for certain types of contracts under the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act 2020, which recently came into force on 20 April 2020. This will help Singaporeans, from SMEs struggling to pay rent, to wedding couples whose weddings have to be postponed.
We will monitor the situation closely, and will consider further measures as needed.
1. The list of categories of legal services considered essential is available at covid.gobusiness.gov.sg/essentialservices/legalservices.↩
Last updated on 04 May 2020