Malaysian judiciary considering initiatives to improve access to legal aid, justice

Tengku Maimun delivering her speech at the opening of the inaugural National Colloquium on Access to Justice 2020.

KUCHING, Jan 16: The Malaysian judiciary is planning to revise the court-led legal aid structure fees.

This was revealed by Chief Justice of Malaysia Tan Sri Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat during the opening of the inaugural National Colloquium on Access to Justice 2020 at a hotel here today.

“Currently, we are looking into revising the court-led legal aid structure fees for assigned counsel.

“This is to attract more senior counsel to act for accused persons in criminal cases.

“While access to justice is important, lawyers must also be adequately compensated for their time and resources,” she said in her speech during the opening of the inaugural National Colloquium on Access to Justice 2020 at a hotel here today.

She noted that at present, there are not many senior counsel taking up legal aid work or assigned cases.

Thus, she believed should the revision be possible, it would be an incentive for senior counsel to assist in criminal cases.

Tengku Maimun opined that courts can also ease access to justice by reducing court fees, pointing out that excessive court fees are one crucial aspect in any discussion on access to justice

Addtionally, she highlighted the need for balance in managing the fees or income and costs of any legal matters.

“The income from court fees enables the judiciary to contribute to government revenue while the general powers of costs may be used to punish frivolous suits or applications.

“On the other side, there is a pressing need to mitigate the cost inhibiting genuine claims and litigants,” she noted.

Tengku Maimun also pointed out that the Malaysian judiciary wants to provide a better experience for self-represented litigants.

“Self-represented litigation is very closely connected to legal aid.

“Often times, a litigant who is unable to procure assistance of counsel is required to prosecute his own claim.

“The Malaysian Judiciary has established an online portal for self-represented litigants by providing short summary of court procedures in criminal and civil cases.

“This has rather small but significant result of educating self-represented litigants,” she said.

She believed concerted efforts must be fostered between the judiciary and the Bar to ensure the self-represented litigants remain apprised and their legal rights are appreciated.

Among those present at the inaugural of the National Colloquium on Access to Justice 2020 were Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri David Wong, Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Azahar Mohamed, Court of Appeal president Datuk Rohana Yusuf, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) resident representative for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Niloy Banerjee, judges of the Federal Court and Court of Appeal, and members of the Bar, judicial officers as well as representatives of foreign Bar Associations from Brunei, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore. — DayakDaily