Azalina wants legal aid to be fine-tuned to prevent wastage

PUTRAJAYA: Legal aid should be fine-tuned, not just for effective representation but also to ensure better use of resources, says Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said.

The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reforms) said she had a discussion with the Bar Council on how best legal aid should be provided to those in need.

She said a national conference would be held on the subject to seek views and opinions of stakeholders and interested parties before a proposal could be brought to the Cabinet.

“We need to clearly spell out legal aid aspects concerning civil and criminal cases. There will be a need for policy changes,” she said at the department’s monthly gathering and Hari Raya Aidilfitri open house yesterday.

Azalina pointed out that financial allocation provided to the National Legal Aid Foundation for the past 10 years amounted to RM83mil, adding that most cases it took up involved remand.

“We need to look at which aspect of a case that we should provide legal aid, whether it is during trial, charge, sentencing or remand,” she added.

She said some countries would provide legal assistance to criminal cases while civil cases be handled by non-governmental organisations.

“This is the question that we must look into, whether assistance should be focused on criminal cases.

“Another aspect that should be reviewed is whether the legal aid bureau should be changed to become the public defender’s office and if legal aid be divided between the government and the Bar Council (to handle).

“All these must be looked into to ensure government expenditure in providing legal aid is well spent and not result in wastage,” she said.

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Azalina Othman , Law


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