Criminal Legal Aid Scheme to be enhanced with direct funding from Govt: Shanmugam

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Law K Shanmugam. More people accused of non-capital offences will benefit from Government-funded aid, Law Minister K. Shanmugam announced on Friday, Dec 6, 2013. -- ST FILE PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Law K Shanmugam. More people accused of non-capital offences will benefit from Government-funded aid, Law Minister K. Shanmugam announced on Friday, Dec 6, 2013. -- ST FILE PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN

More people accused of non-capital offences will benefit from Government-funded aid, Law Minister K. Shanmugam announced on Friday.

The existing Criminal Legal Aid Scheme (CLAS) will be expanded to include a four-tier scheme that provides help ranging from information on the available channels, all the way to full legal representation in court for some.

The CLAS receives about 1,000 applications a year, of which up to 300 qualify for aid. Currently, only offences under 15 statutes, such as the Penal Code and Misuse of Drugs Act, are covered.

Under the first tier of the enhanced scheme, all 12,000 people accused of crimes each year will be provided with an awareness of the channels available for advice, help and representation.

The second tier will provide basic legal advice for people charged with crimes that may lead to jail terms. The third, with 3,000 expected to be eligible yearly, concerns help not involving court attendance by a lawyer, such as the preparation of mitigation pleas or the drafting of defence cases. Under the fourth, up to 1,000 could benefit from full legal representation.

An independent steering committee will be set up to oversee policies governing disbursement of the funds, said Mr Shanmugam. It will be chaired by a High Court judge and will comprise representatives from the courts, Law Society and Law Ministry.