Present set-up has good checks and balances system

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 July, 2007, 12:00am

Your correspondents, Pierce Lam ('Legal aid move will help restore social context,' June 22) and Cynthia Sze ('Legal aid changes should ensure greater degree of transparency,' June 27) welcome the move to put the Legal Aid Department (LAD) under the purview of the Home Affairs Bureau.

The main thrust of both letters increases my concern of transferring LAD accountability from the Legal Aid Services Council.

The council was established in September 1996 as an advisory body of the government on publicly funded legal aid services and it was determined that it would 'not be regarded as an agent or servant of the government'.

The members consist of a chairman who is neither a public officer, barrister, solicitor nor in any other way connected with the practice of law; two barristers and two solicitors; four other persons not connected with the practice of law and the director of legal aid. The council does not have the power to direct the LAD on staff matters or the handling of individual cases.

This is a body - appointed by and answerable directly to the chief executive - quite separate from the government and well away from possible influence by government officials. It produces monthly agendas for its meetings and annual reports and is scrutinised by the director of audit.

Mr Lam suggests that the Home Affairs Bureau will 'help restore a social context for legal actions that aid should be granted only for what society at large recognises as common good'. Who, exactly, in the bureau will provide that recognition and on what basis?

Ms Sze opines that personal fiefdoms 'represent sectarian enthusiasm which, if properly harnessed, may contribute synergy'. Well, the Communist Party - a strong organisation with considerable harnessing power - knows much about personal fiefdoms and certainly in the matter of brick production is trying to stamp them out.

Finally, two direct questions: what, exactly, will the Home Affairs Bureau bring to the better operation of the LAD? Who will take over the responsibilities of the Legal Aid Services Council?

Graham Warburton, Mid-Levels