Update on Bar Free Legal Service Scheme

1. The response to the Bar's F ee Legal Service Scheme ("the Scheme") in its first 6 months of operation has been tremendous. We have received a total of 132 applications between 1st June 2000 and 30th November 2000. This is compared with the Bar receiving a total of 55 applications for assistance in the first 5 months of the year.

2. Of the 132 applications the following categories are most popular:-

Civil liberties and Public Law
(including 10 applications on Immigration matters) 44

Criminal 33

Personal Injuries
(including 5 applications in relation to Medical Negligence) 13

3. It is significant to note, however, that of the 132 applications so far, only 68 have been fully processed and a total of 56 applications are still pending awaiting either further information (43) or a full review by our panel members (13). The remaining 8 applications were not pursued.

4. Of the 68 fully processed cases assistance was only granted to 9. Free legal representation in courts or tribunals was granted in 5 of these 9 cases and the remainder involves free legal advice in writing.

5. It will be seen from these figures that a very large proportion of the applications is found not to be within the ambit of our Scheme which was introduced to assist litigants with meritorious claims who cannot afford the cost of litigation.

6. In particular, we find that the object of the Scheme may not have been fully appreciated as a significant proportion of applicants are apparently financially capable of litigating without our assistance. In more than one case, the applicants freely admit they have assets over the million dollar mark.

7. We hope the public will appreciate that every application lodged with us will receive careful consideration and will be attended to by at least one barrister in addition to the Co-ordinator and the staff of the Scheme. Considerable paper chase will be initiated in each case and whether the actual outcome of the application is successful or not, there is considerable drain from our limited resources.

8. In these circumstances, the Bar wishes to remind the public that the Scheme is intended for those who are definitely in need of the service by reason of their lack of means. It is hoped that the Scheme’s resources can be devoted more effectively to meritorious applications, rather than to processing applications which do not meet our objects, only for such applications to be rejected.

9. The principal criteria for a successful application are set out in our pamphlet on the Scheme which is available at all District and law-related offices as well as our website at www.hkba.org

Dated 18 December, 2000

Hong Kong Bar Association