Enhanced Criminal Legal Aid Scheme set to provide greater access to justice
19 May 2015 Posted in Press releases
The Law Society of Singapore and the Ministry of Law announced today wide ranging enhancements to the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme (CLAS).
Launched by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law, Mr K Shanmugam, the enhanced CLAS features four tiers of assistance, and will serve up to 6,000 accused persons each year. This is more than a tenfold increase from the numbers CLAS currently serves. CLAS has also been enhanced to cover an expanded range of criminal offences, and will offer assistance to applicants who intend to plead guilty.
CLAS will continue to be run by the Law Society, with the Government providing the bulk of the funding which will cover $800,000 for initial start-up costs, and an annual commitment of up to $3.5 million to cover operational costs, honoraria and disbursements. The Law Society will continue to raise funds to cover the rest of the costs. The enhanced CLAS will now be able to serve many more accused persons facing criminal charges.
Features of the enhanced CLAS
- To serve the potential bigger pool of people seeking assistance, having adequate lawyers and the support of law firms is critical. Therefore, the following three mechanisms to grow the pool of lawyers for CLAS have been implemented:
- Lead Lawyers
Senior criminal law practitioners appointed as Lead Lawyers will provide basic legal advice, assess the merits of a case and decide on the level of aid to be given;
- LAS Fellows
Law firms will second or sponsor lawyers to work full-time at the Pro Bono Services Office exclusively on CLAS cases; and
22 law firms thus far have pledged to take on more than 300 CLAS cases per year between them.
- Lead Lawyers
- Other key features of the enhanced scheme are:
- An enhanced means test will allow more applicants to qualify for criminal legal aid. Persons with a disposable income of not more than $10,000 per annum and a disposable capital of not more than $10,000 may be granted aid;
- Co-payment to ensure that applicants also contribute towards their defence, and do not abuse the system;
- Honoraria to be paid to lawyers as a token of appreciation for their pro bono contributions.
- In November 2013, the Ministry of Law announced that it would start funding criminal legal aid. Subsequently, it also announced the formation of a Criminal Legal Assistance Steering Committee to oversee the policies governing the disbursement of government funds for the purposes of criminal legal aid.
- Chaired by the then Justice Tan Siong Thye with the then President of the Law Society, Mr Lok Vi Ming, SC as the Vice Chairman, the Steering Committee was started in 2014. The Steering Committee consists of representatives from the Law Society, the Criminal Bar, the Courts, Singapore Academy of Law and MinLaw. Senior Minister of State for Education and Law Indranee Rajah serves as an advisor to the Steering Committee, along with Judge of Appeal Justice Chao Hick Tin. The current Chairman of the Committee is Presiding Judge of the State Courts, Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon. The Vice-Chairman is now the current President of the Law Society, Mr Thio Shen Yi, SC.
- By end 2014, the Steering Committee completed its formulation of the policy framework for the enhanced CLAS, in consultation with the criminal bar. The enhanced CLAS was soft launched in January 2015 based on the new framework.
Click here (0.1MB) for a quick summary of the Enhanced Criminal Legal Aid Scheme.
Last updated on 16 Jun 2015