Two-year pilot scheme offering free legal advice to help needy

Two-year trial will assist growing number of people who don't qualify for legal aid

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 December, 2012, 4:55am

A trial scheme offering free legal advice, starting early next year, aims to help the growing number of people who are unable to afford hiring a lawyer but are too rich to qualify for legal aid.

A Home Affairs Bureau spokeswoman said the number of "litigants in person" (LIP) had increased in the past few years and that the two-year pilot scheme was designed specifically for them.

"As few LIPs have adequate knowledge about legal procedures, this causes them, the court and other parties in the proceedings difficulties in progressing and trying the cases," she said.

To address this, the scheme will provide advice about court proceedings to people who are unable to afford private legal services. Home Affairs Secretary Tsang Tak-sing said the bureau would recruit as many volunteer lawyers as possible to assist in the scheme.

High Court judge Mr Justice Pang Kin-kee is the chairman of a steering committee which will oversee and advise on the operation of the scheme.

Earlier this month, the bureau handed out its first awards as part of a new recognition scheme for pro bono work to encourage more lawyers to donate their time. More than 250 lawyers and 31 law firms received the awards.

Samuel Li, a lawyer of 28 years, was among the recipients; in the past year he gave free legal seminars to non-profit groups.

Li said there was growing demand for legal aid but Hongkongers were often unaware of the available options.

The award recipients provided pro bono legal services from July 1 last year to June 30 this year.

The government currently funds the Duty Lawyer Service to run the free legal advice scheme.

It provides preliminary legal advice to people facing legal problems.

More than 900 lawyers participate in the scheme, handling about 6,600 cases per year.