Public, private varsities to conduct research for Public Defender’s Act

KUALA LUMPUR: In-depth research will be conducted by 10 public and private universities to review the best practices to formulate details for the proposed Public Defender’s Act for criminal cases, says Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said (pic).

The Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Law and Institutional Reforms) said the research will cover a comparative study of similar laws in other countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan and topics relevant to provide input into drafting of the Act.

She said that the law faculties of Universiti Malaya (UM), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM), Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM), International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) will be involved in this research.

Azalina added that the law faculties of Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (UNISZA), Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM) and the Malaysia Multimedia University (MMU) will also be involved in this research.

“It is an effort to ensure the public receives proper legal aid services for criminal cases,” she added.

“All the input received from the study will be refined before the government finalises on the parameters for the establishment of the Act in the near future,” Azalina told Dewan Rakyat during the Minister's Question Time session on Monday (May 22).

Azalina was responding to a question by Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan (Perikatan Nasional-Kota Baru) on the possibility of enacting the Public Defender's Act to provide legal aid services involving criminal cases for the underprivileged.

She added that an engagement session with stakeholders and experts at the Asian International Arbitration Centre was held in April with the aid of the Legal Aid Department, National Legal Aid Foundation and Bar Council.

Azalina said that this is to gather feedback to improve legal aid in the interests of effective justice.

When asked on the fate of the National Legal Aid Foundation (YBGK) once the Act is established, Azalina said it will depend on the outcome of the research by the law academicians.

“The commitment to hold the engagement session with stakeholders and research is to find both short and long term solutions for the justice system, hence I cannot say what will happen to YBGK,” said Azalina.

She added that the engagement session and research by the universities will provide a foundation for the government to decide on the implementation of the policy to provide defenders for criminal cases.

“I need to wait for the findings from the experts to know if YBGK will be included, separated or continued,” said Azalina.

She was replying to a supplementary question by Takiyuddin who wanted to know if the Act will overlap with the YBGK which has been providing legal aid to the underprivileged since 2011.

“YBGK is a limited guarantee company which has been serving for more than 11 years, represented criminal cases and faces unpaid legal aid fees of more than RM10mil,” he said.

Azalina said she has yet to receive any official letter from YBGK since entering office on the unpaid fees matter and had an engagement session with the latter.

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