Funding for legal aid could rise: Indranee

The Government may increase funding for legal aid in non-capital criminal cases, by giving more money to groups that run pro bono legal aid programmes.

This was revealed by Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah on Tuesday, while she was replying to a question by Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan on legal aid for criminal cases.

"We've decided the Government should do more in the provision of legal aid compared to the position hitherto...(but) while we make this move we need to be careful of how we do this as monies come from finite pool," she said.

To that end, Singapore should learn from the experiences of other countries to develop a system that is sustainable, she added.

Citing Britain, where the government spent two billion pounds (S$4 billion) on legal aid - half of which went towards criminal cases - Ms Indranee said that some countries had found "costs prohibitive and outcome not entirely satisfactory".

Details of the scheme being considered by the Ministry of Law are still being worked out with groups like the Singapore Law Academy and the Law Society, she added.

The Law Society runs the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, under which lawyers work pro bono to defend accused persons charged under 15 qualifying statutes. The society gets an average of 1,000 applications for criminal legal aid each year, of which about 200 to 300 cases eventually get help.