KUCHING, 16 Jan 2020:
The judiciary is looking into revising the court-led legal aid fees for assigned counsels to attract more senior lawyers to act for accused persons in criminal cases, said Chief Justice Tan Sri Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat.
She said legal aid and financial assistance were slightly more complex because they involved executive and legislative policies and the judiciary could not do much to alleviate the issue.
“While access to justice is important, lawyers must also be adequately compensated for their time and resources. At present, we do not have that many senior counsels taking up legal aid work or assigned cases.
“So, should the revision prove possible, then it would provide better incentives for senior counsels to assist in criminal cases,” she said in her speech when opening a National Colloquium on Access To Justice 2020 here today.
She said another way courts can improve access to justice is by reducing court fees and there is an important need for balance in this respect.
“Excessive court fees are one crucial aspect in any discussion on access to justice.
“The income from court fees enables the judiciary to contribute to the government revenue while the general powers of costs may be used to punish frivolous suits or applications.
“But on the other side, there is a pressing need to mitigate the cost inhibiting genuine claims and litigants,” Tengku Maimun said.
On another issue, she said setting up new courts may not necessarily alleviate logistical limitations to bring justice to rural and remote communities in large states like Sabah and Sarawak.
“For this reason, the judiciary proposes to continue with its Mobile Courts programme with greater vigour. Remoteness may not only be gauged by distance, but also in terms of finances.
“To this end, the judiciary’s Mobile Court programme will also be expanded to encompass the urban poor. If one cannot access the courts, the courts will then make an active effort to reach out to them.”