Legal Aid Department Legal Aid Department Annual Report 2011
 


 

Foreword

I am pleased to present my second Annual Report for the Legal Aid Department. 2011 was another eventful and fruitful year. We have implemented a number of new initiatives and measures for enhancing the quality of legal aid services. I would like to highlight some of them here.

Mr William Chan Heung-ping
Director of Legal Aid

Five-yearly Review of the Criteria for Assessing the Financial Eligibility of Legal Aid Applicants

Following the conclusion of the latest Review in 2010, several significant improvement measures were implemented with effect from 18 May 2011. Firstly, the financial eligibility limit for the Ordinary Legal Aid Scheme (OLAS) has been raised from $175,800 to $260,000 and that for the Supplementary Legal Aid Scheme from $488,400 to $1,300,000.

Secondly, the financial eligibility limit was further relaxed for applicants aged 60 or above by providing them with a capital disregard. When calculating the disposable capital for this group of applicants, an amount equal to the financial eligibility limit of OLAS is excluded from the calculation.

Thirdly, the median monthly household expenditure has been adopted in place of the 35-percentile household expenditure as the basis for calculating the statutory personal allowances, which will be deducted from the financial resources of the applicants when calculating their disposable income.

Review of Criminal Legal Aid Fees and Scope

The review of the payment structure for lawyers undertaking criminal legal aid work and the expansion of the scope of legal aid in criminal cases had entered its final stage. Working together with the Home Affairs Bureau, the draft amendment Rules were submitted to the Criminal Procedure Rules Committee for vetting in May. The Rules once passed will introduce a new fees payment regime for practitioners undertaking criminal legal aid work and expand criminal legal aid to cover appeal cases considered by the Court of First Instance, Court of Appeal and the Court of Final Appeal which do not involve a conviction.

Video Documentary on Liability for Costs and Release of Monies Recovered

A video documentary aimed at enhancing public understanding on the liability for costs of aided persons and the steps involved in the release of monies recovered in aided proceedings was produced and released by the Department. The documentary is available for public viewing in our Hong Kong and Kowloon offices. It has also been uploaded onto the Department's website.

Free Interpretation Service for Ethnic Minorities

In an on-going effort to promote legal aid services among ethnic minorities, we have taken active steps to promote the availability of free interpretation services to ethnic minorities applicants. Applicants who can only read or converse in Bengali, Hindu, Indonesian, Tamil, Thai, Tagalog, Urdu, Vietnamese, Punjabi and Nepali can approach our staff for assistance using specially designed cards with appropriate messages to enable the applicants to communicate their requests to our staff.

Mr William Chan Heung-ping
Director of Legal Aid

Mediation in Legally Aided Matrimonial Cases

Since 2009, the legal aid scheme has provided funding to cover mediation in civil proceedings in line with the underlying objective of the Civil Justice Reform implemented in the same year. With a view to promoting better understanding of mediation in legal aid cases, we have issued a leaflet on mediation in legally aided matrimonial cases. It aims to provide information such as what is mediation, what can be achieved through mediation and the role of the assigned lawyer in mediation.

Mobile Version of Means Test Calculator

In addition to the Means Test Calculator on the Department's website, we have launched the mobile version of the Means Test Calculator which provides a convenient way for members of the public to find out whether they are likely to be eligible for legal aid on means.

Looking ahead

It is heartening to see that the effort to enhance our services to the public in the past year has borne fruit. This is achieved through the collaborative effort and hard work of my dedicated colleagues and colleagues from the Home Affairs Bureau. However, it is also important that we do not become complacent but continue with our pursuit of excellence in the delivery of legal aid services in the years ahead. I wish also to take this opportunity to pay my warm tribute to the Chairman and Members of the Legal Aid Services Council for their insightful advice and sterling support for our work during the year. My sincere thanks also go to our assigned lawyers for their commitment in providing quality legal aid services to the public.



William CHAN Heung-ping
Director of Legal Aid
 



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