More help for young offenders, faster access to legal advice among State Courts' new initiatives

Justice See Kee Oon, Presiding Judge of the State Courts, announcing the new initiatives at the State Courts' annual Workplan Seminar on March 8, 2019. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - Young offenders under the age of 21 will receive help to prevent them from re-offending while inmates can expect speedier access to legal advice.

These are some of the new initiatives announced by the State Courts on Friday (March 8).

The cases of young offenders who are awaiting their sentences will be referred to the State Courts' Centre for Specialist Services, which will assess their circumstances. The centre was soft-launched last July.

For example, the centre will refer youngsters who may have dropped out of school or have financial problems to the relevant government agencies and non-profit organisations to get help.

The aim is to address these youngsters' socio-environmental factors so as to motivate them to break away from the vicious circle of criminal behaviour and prevent them from re-offending, said State Courts Presiding Judge See Kee Oon at the State Courts' annual Workplan Seminar.

"While current rehabilitative programmes for youthful offenders generally begin only after they have been sentenced, it would be optimal to work towards earlier rehabilitation of these offenders in appropriate cases," he added.

A review of legal processes is also under way for inmates who are on remand or serving their sentences, said Justice See.

While an accused person can log in to the Integrated Criminal Case Filing and Management System using their SingPass to access their court documents, some inmates cannot do so as they do not have their SingPass tokens or mobile phones with them to clear the required two-factor authentication.

Justice See said the State Courts is working with the Singapore Prison Service and the Community Justice Centre to find alternative ways to give inmates faster access to case information without compromising security needs.

The State Courts will also introduce a programme to help parties in disputes resolve their differences without having to go to court, said Justice See.

Called Project Restore, the programme aims to contain and prevent conflict escalation among neighbours or those seeking to file a Magistrate's Complaint.

These initiatives will come under the Centre for Specialist Services, where support and assistance programmes will be centralised.

The centre also provides counselling and psychological services to court users such as offenders as well as victims and their families.

The State Courts will also be launching an online resource to help unrepresented litigants in civil court cases to navigate the court system.

The interactive platform will instruct people on topics such as the filing of pleadings and assessment of damages.

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