PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 January, 2008, 12:00am

Should legal aid fees for lawyers be increased?

It has been revealed that low payment for doing legal aid work is deterring an increasing number of lawyers from taking up legal aid work (''Insulting' legal aid payments deter lawyers', January 22).

This is a serious social issue that our government must not take too lightly.

Legal aid is an important element of a justice-based society and this is particularly the case with Hong Kong. It provides the opportunity for those who are underprivileged to contest their cases.

Without legal aid, they would not have the resources to do that.

For many of these people it is the light at the end of the tunnel. And it means that justice can be extended to all layers of society.

The existence of this system has, for many years, been one of the core values of Hong Kong.

However, the existing scheme has not been reviewed since 1992, and given the changing pace of the socio-economic situation, perhaps it is about time our government took the initiative and amended the scheme.

Unless proper remuneration is provided, it is difficult to expect lawyers to be sufficiently motivated to take legal aid cases.

The lawyers obviously feel they should not be earning peanuts to fight for justice for a client. Justice comes at a price, and sometimes can be costly.

To prevent the problem from getting worse, the government must implement changes in the legal aid system.

H. C. Bee, Ho Man Tin

Should we have more plastic banknotes?

I strongly believe there should be more plastic banknotes in circulation.

Despite the increase in production costs, polymer notes are more secure, durable and they are environmentally friendly.

The security features applied on the plastic banknote are quite effective.

For example, the clear window and colour-shift ribbon are easy to identify but hard to counterfeit.

Experiences from other countries such as Australia and New Zealand have proved that these security features can greatly combat counterfeiting activities because printing the polymer note is very technical and costly.

I think that it is an effective way of reducing incidences of counterfeiting.

As I said, these plastic notes are more durable. A paper note will only last for about three years.

The polymer note can last for nine years and this makes it more cost-effective.

As the polymer notes can be recycled when they are no longer usable, they are kinder to the environment.

Traditional paper notes cannot be recycled and this is wasteful.

For environmental reasons, I am sure people would prefer to have the plastic banknotes.

Cindy Lee, Ma On Shan

What do you think of the SPCA's proposal on children owning pets?

I don't really see a problem with children keeping pets.

If they are under 16, their parents will be responsible for anything that goes on in the home.

Therefore, it is the parents who need to be educated.

Children can benefit from having early contact with pets. Schools should actually look into the possibility of keeping some pets in class.

When I was young most of my peers had brothers and sisters. For many children now, without siblings, having a pet can be a substitute.

A pet can provide companionship, just as it does for an elderly person living alone without a family.

I always take my dogs, a Rottweiler and a beagle, to school outings and picnics.

I do this for a good reason; I want to teach the children social interaction.

It is not that my dogs need to learn such interaction. They have been around children and known family life for most of their lives.

This interaction can be effective. I recall one boy I knew who had behavioural problems. He was restless and aggressive.

He started walking our beagle and looked after him for hours at a time.

He changed into a responsible and caring person.

Through this interaction, the boy learned the pride of self-respect and of responsibility.

This is why animals, such as dogs, are taken on visits to children and older people who are in hospitals and hospices.

The animal can fill a void. Pets can perform the same function. They can enrich the lives of all the occupants of a house.

What the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals proposes is well-intentioned, but it may also send the wrong message. Children should have pets.

All that's needed is supervision and the teaching of responsibility. That's why I take my pets to school.

J. Boost, Sai Kung

Should companies provide paternity leave?

If a company decides to introduce a policy of granting paternity leave, I am sure this will please those employees whose wives are expecting a baby.

However, a company is equally entitled not to adopt such a policy.

There is already a legal requirement for companies to grant permanent staff seven to 14 days of paid annual leave [depending on how long they have been with the company].

Some companies give staff extra days off if there has been a death in the family, for weddings, or if they have to take an exam.

However, granting that leave is at the discretion of the company and there is no need to start legislating further on leave entitlements.

Susan Chan, Wan Chai

On other matters...

I would like to complain about the poor service of Plaza Hollywood ParknShop.

My wife bought a number of items on January 17 and asked that they be delivered to our home. However, the days passed and still there was no delivery.

On a number of occasions we called the store but nobody answered. On four occasions, we actually went to the store and were given different explanations each time we approached a member of staff.

We were told they had the wrong address, that nobody answered at the address and that the delivery vehicle had broken down.

Finally, on January 23 the goods arrived. I do not believe I should have had to wait for so long, six days, for the delivery of my shopping.

Joe Fung, Choi Hung