Foreword  

I am pleased to present the 2015 Annual Report to you. This report has marked our continuous and concerted efforts in maintaining close contact with the community and stakeholders, promoting the legal aid services to the public and enhancing our quality services to meet the needs of the society.

  Mr Thomas Edward KWONG
Director of Legal Aid

Communications with the Community and Stakeholders

In 2015, we had regular discussions and interaction with the Legal Aid Services Council (LASC), Legislative Council (LegCo) Members and various bodies with a view to promoting their understanding of the work of the Department, in particular in areas like measures to combat touting activities, assignments to panel lawyers, processing of legal aid applications etc. Through the insightful sharing, the Department had a good grasp of the concerns and needs of the members of public which allowed us to further enhance of our services to meet the ever-changing demands in nowadays environment.

The Department continued to meet and have close dialogues with the professional bodies and academics of the legal field in the past year. Fruitful exchanges of views on legal aid related topics, practices, and considerations were made. We believe that the mutual understanding and trust established would form a strong basis for the future improvement of legal aid services.


Review of Criminal Legal Aid Fees

The Government has been reviewing the rates of legal aid fees payable to panel lawyers undertaking criminal legal aid work after the implementation of the “Marked Brief System”. A working group was formed in March 2014 which comprised of representatives from the Home Affairs Bureau (HAB), the two legal professions, the Department of Justice and this Department to explore the way forward. The review was successfully completed in 2015 and agreement on the new rates was reached. The review results have been reported to the LegCo Panel on Administration of Justice and Legal Services. Legislative amendments to implement the recommendations of the review would be made accordingly.


Enhancement of E-Communication and Information Systems

With the benefit of information technology, the Department has further developed its service in order to expand our touch to panel lawyers and clients in a more effective and efficient manner. In 2015, The Department’s Case Management and Case Accounting System was enhanced and regular reminder letters were sent to panel lawyers to invite their updates of profile when their three years’ period was about to expire. Foreign currency exchange rates were also directly captured from the Hong Kong Association of Banks for the conduct of means test. The Department also participated in the use of the Remote Official Visit System (ROVS). The System would facilitate our official visits remotely with persons in the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre starting from May 2016.


Service to the Public

We have looked into further alternatives to facilitate the public to make payment in a convenient way. In addition to existing methods for making payments of contributions, judgment debts or costs of the proceedings to the Department in cash, by cheque or through Payment by Phone Service, new payment methods by Automated Teller Machine and Bank Internet Services were rolled out in 2015.

To foster communication between the public and our staff, mini thank-you cards were distributed and placed at our reception counters starting from September 2015 for the public to give words of encouragement and appreciation to our staff.

We mentioned in the past Annual Reports the completion of the renovation projects in the Information & Application Services Unit in the Queensway Government Offices and the Kowloon Branch Offices respectively. We started another renovation project in June 2015 to further upgrade the waiting area as well as the interview rooms on 3/F of the Kowloon Branch Office. The works for a more comfortable waiting area and seven newly designed interview rooms which provided better privacy to the applicants were completed by end 2015.

The Department has all along been striving for provision of quality services to the public. It is also our belief that a sound complaints handling system is of paramount importance in collecting the public’s feedback and expectations of our performance. We thanked The Ombudsman for the granting of the Award of The Ombudsman’s Awards 2015 for Public Organisations to the Department as recognition of our efforts in promoting a positive, sincere and impartial culture in handling complaints.

  Mr Thomas Edward KWONG
Director of Legal Aid

Looking Ahead

2015 was a challenging and fruitful year. We experienced new developments in many aspects and were encouraged by the positive feedback and recognition received. It is certainly not by luck. All these come along with the unfailing support and invaluable advices from LASC and HAB as well as our close working partners in the industry. I would also like to express my heartfelt thanks and appreciations to my colleagues who have given their whole-hearted support to the Department in implementing new initiatives and meeting all the challenges.

I look forward to another year of close collaboration between us and all parties in 2016.

 

 

Thomas Edward KWONG
Director of Legal Aid

 
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