Friday, February 08, 2013

Access to justice for the poor

Someone asked, "Is it true that the poor cannot afford justice and the rich abuse it? How can this be solved? Why were some targeted people bankrupted or have to pay huge sums for a fair trial? Aren't we supposed to have access to impartial justice? How can can the public avoid pre-verdict judgments based on coverage by the media?

Here are my points.

1. The laws of a country differentiate between "crime" and "civil offences". If the offence is a crime, it is the duty of the state to take action, e.g. murder, assault, cheating, vandalism. The victim can make a report to the Police and let the state investigate and charge the offender. The victim does not need to have money to get justice.

2. The poor can also get access to a "free" lawyer in certain cases, e.g. to defend a charge of a serious crime. The state may pay the lawyer or use a panel of lawyers who are willing to provide this free service for the poor.

3. In some countries, the attorney general acts as a lawyer for the people, and will take civil cases collectively on behalf of a large group of victims. The attorney general of New York State is quite active in this role, and has sued or obtained out-of-court settlement from big corporations for alleged offences.

4. In America, some lawyers are willing to take up cases for consumers on a contingency fee arrangement. The lawyer bears all of the cost and will take a percentage e,g. 30%  of the compensation, if successful. This type of fee arrangement is not allowed in Singapore.

5. The legal system in America protects the rights of the citizens, and the poor. Singapore needs to adopt some of these good practices, so that the poor can also have access to justice and fair play.

6. The media reports statements made in court as there on cases of public interest. It is for the public to avoid making "biased judgment" based on incomplete facts, inadequate consideration or ignorance of the law. They should leave it to the court to make the judgement.

I hope that these points are useful and interesting.


zhummmeng said...

Because of no money and the hassle many aggrieved insurance customers are denied the justice. FIDREC is an useless and it is a kangaroo court. It is set up by the industry and many times the verdicts are in favor of the insurers and only small small ones in favor of the consumers.
It seems only money can give you access to justice, right?
MAS should operate like the FSA of UK. FSA is truly a regulator. When an insurer or an agent commits misconduct the penalty is very heavy until the insurer can go on its knee to beg for mercy or the agents will never never forget what it is breaking the law against the consumers is like. The insurers and the agents forget that the consumers are THE REASONS why they are in business, why they exist. This is what FSA stands for.

yujuan said...

A Taiwanese saying which fits to a T the kind of Justice we have in Singapore.
"Fish aiding the waters, and the waters aiding the fish".
The weak, the poor, the not so poor and the middle class will have to eat humble pie, and recede when facing adversity.
Dun have the luxury even to engage a lawyer. Dun bother wasting time to go to FIDREC, just ask yourself who are the paymasters of this org, and you just move on.

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