More help for young offenders and faster access to legal advice

State Courts introduce slew of new initiatives at annual Workplan Seminar

Young offenders under 21 will receive help to prevent them from re-offending, and inmates can expect speedier access to legal advice.

These were some of the new initiatives announced by the State Courts yesterday.

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 youth who may have dropped out of school or have financial problems to relevant government agencies and non-profit organisations to get help.

The aim is to address these youngsters' socio-environmental factors to motivate them to break away from the vicious circle of criminal behaviour and prevent them from re-offending, State Courts Presiding Judge See Kee Oon said 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 under remand or serving their sentences, said Justice See.

While accused persons 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 to clear the required two-factor authentication.

The 35-storey State Courts Towers is being built next to the current State Courts building in Chinatown. The complex is made up of two interconnected towers, and will house 53 courtrooms and 53 hearing chambers. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

Justice See said the State Courts are 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.

Unrepresented inmates who are deciding whether to lodge an appeal can also seek advice from pro bono lawyers from the Community Justice Centre via video communication. The project is being piloted for six months for inmates serving sentences for drug-related offences.

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 magistrate complaints.

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 give step-by-step instructions on topics such as the filing of pleadings and assessment of damages.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 09, 2019, with the headline 'More help for young offenders and faster access to legal advice'. Print Edition | Subscribe