SCENARIO 3 :
Facilitating Access to Legal Aid Services
Problem and Background
The public’s demand for legal aid services is ever increasing. According to the Department’s latest Annual Report, the Legal Aid Department (“LAD”) is required to process nearly 18,000 legal aid applications each year covering different areas of law, ranging from matrimonial, employees’ compensation, personal injuries, and land disputes to criminal proceedings and judicial reviews. These cases may vary in complexity and timeframes.
Currently, there are different legal aid schemes including ordinary legal aid scheme and supplementary legal aid scheme for civil cases and for criminal cases. Each scheme has different criteria for the means and merit assessments. However, the general public are usually not familiar with legal aid application procedures e.g. what categories of cases are within the legal aid scope; what are the requirements to apply for different legal aid schemes; what documents should be filed; and whether they are financially eligible for legal aid. Some applicants might also face language barriers and literacy related issues when applying for legal aid.
The LAD website provides an important self-servicing informational platform to educate the public about the legal aid schemes and their procedures with, among other objectives, the aim to improve access to justice and efficiency.
Participants are invited to review the LAD’s website, annual reports and other existing public resources, and create technology-enabled solutions to improve on these existing resources and enhance the general public’s knowledge about and access to the legal aid schemes. Such solutions may address issues including but not limited to: facilitate better search and retrieval of relevant information and documentation on the LAD website; help address public enquires for legal aid applications; verification of the requisite information/documents required for applications and screening of means and merits eligibility; help the public understand their legal aid rights and obligations; automation of certain process within the system.
Further Readings and Resources
(1) The Legal Aid Department website
(2) The Legal Aid Department annual reports