2014 Legal Aid Department Annual Report
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  Foreword  

2014 was a challenging and exciting year that marked our dedication in the delivery of quality legal aid services to the community.  Let me share with you some of the major initiatives implemented in this regards.

  Mr Thomas Edward KWONG
Director of Legal Aid

Our Determination to Combat Improper Touting in Legal Aid Cases

Towards the end of 2013, we introduced  a new declaration system  to ensure that the aided person’s choice of lawyers would not be affected by improper touting activities or conduct on the part of the lawyers nominated. The feedback we received from different stakeholders especially the two legal professions  was most encouraging and reassuring. We will continue to ensure that aided persons are free from undue pressure when exercising their right to nominate lawyers who are competent to handle their case. We will continue to identify measures to stamp out improper touting activities.

Review of Criminal Legal Aid Fees

At the last review of criminal legal aid fees in 2012,  the Government agreed to further review the rates of legal fees payable to panel lawyers undertaking criminal legal aid work two years after the implementation of the “Marked Brief System”. In this respect, a working group was formed in March 2014 which comprised of representatives from the Home Affairs Bureau, the two legal professions, the Department of Justice and this Department to commence work on this latest round of review. Subject to the deliberations of the working group, legislative amendments to implement the recommendations of the review would be introduced in due course.


Enhancement of E-Communication

The Department continued to explore ways to strengthen our communication with panel lawyers who are our major partners in the delivery of quality legal aid services. More user-friendly features such as demonstration screens, additional frequently asked questions, revamped pages, and prompting messages so on were added to our Legal Aid Electronic Services Portal in 2014. Panel lawyers can now download and submit e-reports, input data and navigate through the Portal at greater ease.


Interaction with the Public and the Legal Aid Services Council (LASC)

In order to enhance our service to the public we have carried out and completed refurbishment of our application area at the Queensway Government Offices. A newly designed Information & Application Services Unit with five dedicated interview rooms were opened for use in November 2014. Apart from offering a more comfortable and private environment for the applicants to provide their case information to our staff, its barrier free design also facilitates those in need to have better and direct access to our services. A similar project is currently underway at our Kowloon Branch Office.

With a view to improving our service to the public and understanding their needs, we regularly conduct comprehensive surveys to gauge customer feedback on different aspects of our work. I would like to take this opportunity to thank members of the public for their support, suggestions for improvement as well as appreciation and thank-you messages throughout the year. As a means to express the management’s gratitude for our staff’s dedication in delivering quality service to the public and to enhance staff morale, since May 2014, written encouragements received from our applicants have been posted on the “Encouragement from the public” corner of the Department’s webpage.

To further enhance our operational transparency, we have been working closely with the Task Force on Dissemination of Legal Aid Information of the LASC to identify room for improvement. Fruitful exchanges of views on the way forward have been made. We will continue to provide the LASC with every assistance and support in this regard.

  Mr Thomas Edward KWONG
Director of Legal Aid

Looking Ahead

We would not have been able to rise to all the challenges in 2014 without the unfaltering support of the LASC and the Home Affairs Bureau for which I am grateful. I would also like to thank the two branches of the legal profession for their contributions, participation and invaluable advice on the various aspects of our services. Last but not the least, I would like to pay tribute to my colleagues whom have worked tirelessly throughout the year in delivering  quality legal aid services to the public.

I look forward to working closely with our stakeholders in the coming year.

 

 

Thomas Edward KWONG
Director of Legal Aid

 
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