Oral Answer by Senior Minister of State for Law, Indranee Rajah, to Parliamentary Question on Legal Aid
9 May 2016 Posted in Parliamentary speeches and responses
Dr Lim Wee Kiak, Member of Parliament for Sembawang GRC
To ask the Minister for Law (a) whether the Government will review the current annual disposable income criteria for a person to qualify for legal aid; (b) what are the reasons for applicants failing to qualify for legal aid; and (c) among applicants who qualify for legal aid, what are the broad categories of their cases.
Legal aid is an important aspect of access to justice in Singapore. To qualify for legal aid in civil matters, under the Legal Aid and Advice Act, applicants will have to satisfy a means test.
The means test is satisfied where the applicant’s disposable income is not more than $10,000 per year, and he or she has not more than $10,000 of disposable capital. The Ministry of Law regularly reviews the means test to ensure that those who are unable to afford to hire a lawyer can still obtain legal advice or representation. In 2013, the Act was amended to allow approximately 25% of Singapore citizens and permanent residents to qualify for legal aid under the means test, up from 17% previously. At the same time, the Director of Legal Aid was also given a new discretion for family proceedings which involve children or protection orders to ensure that the most vulnerable persons in a family dispute are eligible for legal aid. We will continue to monitor and review the criteria for the means test regularly.
For applicants who satisfy the means test, legal aid will be granted if the Legal Aid Board is satisfied that the applicant has reasonable grounds for taking, defending, continuing or being a party to the proceedings. The applicants who were granted legal aid were helped in a wide range of civil matters. Around half of the cases were matrimonial matters such as divorce and applications for custody of children, and a further 15-20% of cases involved property or estate matters or claims. A more complete list of services offered by the Legal Aid Bureau can be found on its website.
Last updated on 09 May 2016