Sharp rise in legal aid bans

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 August, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 August, 1999, 12:00am

Rejections of repeated claims for legal aid in the first half of the year increased more than threefold compared with the same period last year.

The rise was caused by an increase in applications from mainland overstayers wanting to settle in the SAR.

In the first six months of the year, 37 people were prohibited from applying for legal aid for three years, compared with 12 in the same period last year and 21 for the whole of last year.

Of the 37 applications, 18 were refused for repeated applications involving right of abode for mainland-born children and overstaying mainland wives, a spokeswoman for the Legal Aid Department said.

No cases rejected in the first half of last year were related to immigration issues.

Other refused cases involved personal injuries, landlord and tenant disputes, medical negligence and matrimonial disputes.

Under Legal Aid regulations, applicants can be barred from making claims for three years, if their appeal in the same case is not approved a second time.

A department spokeswoman said: 'This is to prevent repeated abuse of the system.' She denied accusations that most legal aid funds had been drained by non-locals during rows over Vietnamese boat people and right of abode for mainland children born to Hong Kong parents.

In the 1998-99 financial year, only two per cent of $520 million was spent on non-resident cases, she said.

'It's a misconception that non-residents are using up the money. Most of the right of abode cases were represented by a few test cases.'