In this sixth and last Annual Report compiled during my term as Director of Legal Aid, I am pleased to highlight some of the important events that occurred in the Legal Aid Department in the year 2009. 

Mr Benjamin Cheung King-man
Director of Legal Aid

Funding Support for Mediation in Legally Aided Civil Proceedings

I reported in last year's Annual Report that the Legislative Council Panel on Administration of Justice and Legal Services supported the Administration's proposal to provide funding to cover mediation in legally aided matrimonial cases.  I am pleased to report that starting from 1 April 2009, legally aided persons involved in civil proceedings can be given funding support for mediation as an alternative means of resolving the disputes for which they are given legal aid as a result of the Civil Justice Reform.

Review of the Criminal Legal Aid Fees System

Negotiations with the Law Society continued on the remuneration offered for solicitors handling criminal legal aid cases throughout the year.  In an attempt to expedite implementation, the Administration has started the preparation work for the legislative process to amend the relevant provisions in the Legal Aid in Criminal Cases Rules.

Information Systems Strategy

In 2009, the Office of Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) invited the Department, being one of five government departments, to participate in a pilot study to formulate a departmental-wide Electronic Information Management (EIM) Strategy. 

The aim of the study is to develop a strategy and systematic approach to make use of electronic means to manage information in whatever form originally created or received by the Department.  The EIM pilot study commenced in June 2009 and was scheduled tentatively to be completed in September 2010. 

Information Leaflets on Legal Aid Services in Hong Kong for Ethnic Minorities

The Department recognises the importance of promoting legal aid services among ethnic minorities residing in Hong Kong.  In an on-going effort to pursue this aim, the Department published two more leaflets on legal aid in Vietnamese and Punjabi.  The leaflets together with the other leaflets in Bengali, Hindi, Indonesian, Nepali, Tagalog, Thai and Urdu are now available at any office of the Department or at the relevant consulate offices, the Correctional Services Department, Social Welfare Department, Judiciary Resource Centre, Police stations, Labour Department, Public Enquiries Services Centres of the Home Affairs Department and hospitals under the Hospital Authority. They can also be downloaded from the Department's website. 

Mr Benjamin Cheung King-man
Director of Legal Aid

The Ombudsman's Award 2009

The Ombudsman, in recognition of the Department's efforts to improve public administration and promote quality service, had chosen the Department to receive the Grand Award of The Ombudsman's Awards 2009 for Departments/Organisations at a ceremony held in November 2009.  The Award represents the best reward for and provides the greatest recognition of the joint efforts of my colleagues in dealing with complaints referred by The Ombudsman.

Closing remarks

I shall proceed to pre-retirement leave in 2010 after more than 36 years of service with the Department.  I wish to thank my colleagues for their invaluable support during my tenure as Director and express my appreciation for their unstinting efforts in providing quality legal aid services to the public.  I have enjoyed working with them.  I would also like to thank the Chairman and Members of the Legal Aid Services Council for providing me and the Department with guidance and advice over the past years.  My gratitude also goes to the assigned lawyers for their support and contribution to legal aid services in Hong Kong.

Benjamin Cheung King-man
Director of Legal Aid