‘Legal aid fund a long term necessity’
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
THE president of the Brunei Law Society urged authorities to establish a legal aid fund to help accused persons procure legal representation in the courts when they need it.
Hj Mohd Rozaiman DSLJ Abd Rahman said that current forms of legal aid were only a short-term fix to the problem and does not give a permanent solution.
He said this during his speech at the opening of the legal year at the High Court Building-Supreme Court in the capital on Thursday.
“In the past, the Law Society had set up legal aid clinics where the Law Society would weigh whether the defendants or claimants are eligible for legal representation when they are not able to obtain it on their own and members of the Law Society would provide legal advice if they merit it,” he said.
“In the long term, it will be necessary to consider setting up a Legal Aid Fund to enable a full implementation of a legal aid programme to help those in need of legal representation.”
Legal aid refers to the provision of assistance given to people who are unable to afford legal representation on their own or access to the court system.
Speaking to The Brunei Times on the sidelines of the event, Mohd Rozaiman said that he hoped all the stakeholders and not just the state judiciary department would contribute to the legal aid fund should it be established.
“This fund is to ensure that those who are unable to afford legal representation or do not know how to procure it can have access to it without burdening the government every time the need for it arises,” he said.
Currently, legal aid is only available to defendants facing the death penalty and the approval of which is subject to a review on a case-by-case basis.
According to a press release issued by the Supreme Court yesterday, Chief Justice Dato Seri Paduka Hj Kifrawi Dato Paduka Hj Kifli said that defendants, when applying for legal aid, have to undergo an examination of their financial means and if it is assessed that the defendants clearly could not afford their own counsel, legal representation would be appointed for them by the court.
He stated that Brunei has been successful in creating a pool of senior and experienced members of the bar under the legal aid scheme to represent defendants charged with death penalty offences.
It was also revealed that only 19 applications for legal aid were granted in the past decade which amounted to $318,170 of public funds paid out to legal representatives under the scheme.
The Chief Justice also stressed that the legal aid scheme will ensure that capital defendants lacking financial means to appoint their own legal representation are of equal footing as a capital defendant who can afford his or her own private legal representation.
The Brunei Times