Asia & Australia

November 21, 2018

Legal Aid and Advice (Amendment) Bill: Singapore


singaporeparliament

On November 19, the Singapore Parliament passed the Legal Aid and Advice (Amendment) Bill 2018, which amends several sections of the act including Section 8 relating to the old evaluation methods and provides for evaluation based on new means criteria to be prescribed in regulations made under the Act.

The Bill amends the Legal Aid and Advice Act (Chapter 160 of the 2014 Revised Edition) and makes consequential amendments to the Legal Profession Act (Chapter 161 of the 2009 Revised Edition).

Under the Amendment, the means criteria for legal aid will be updated and aligned with those more commonly used by current social support schemes.

Currently, applicants for legal aid have to pass a means threshold based on their disposable income and disposable capital, including an evaluation of savings, assets, and other expenses.

According to Edwin Tong Chun Fai, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Law & Ministry of Health, in line with criteria for other social support schemes, applicants will be assessed based on their Per Capita Household Income (PCHI), the annual value of their home, as well as their savings and investments.

Minister Edwin added, “The amendment will provide for greater flexibility and discretion for aid ... and will allow us to provide aid in a more targeted manner, which would also achieve greater equity.”

The Minister then said, "Applicants will no longer need to provide various documentary proofs of deductibles."

This move would simplify and shorten the application process for legal aid, as applicants would no longer need to provide proof of having met certain criteria.

Minister Edwin said, "Even with various Government-driven initiatives to reduce the costs of dispute resolution, we recognize that some in our society may still be unable to afford their own lawyers for basic legal services."

Nevertheless, he stated that his Ministry regularly reviews the means test for civil legal aid to ensure that it remains affordable.

However, the Minister then said, "Legal aid is targeted and given only to those with limited means as it has to be, because we have limited resources and we need to be prudent about how we allocate them."

To view to entire Bill in detail, please visit: https://www.parliament.gov.sg/docs/default-source/default-document-library/legal-aid-and-advice-(amendment)-bill-42-2018.pdf

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