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4/01/2009

Myth 206 - How accessible is our justice system to the poor?

The pride of our judicial system is that it is fair and just and accessible to everyone, theoretically. Everyone must have remembered the NKF cases when a few victims quietly paid up when faced with lawsuits even when they were in the right. They had to pay up, apologised and looked like a fool all because they could not afford the legal fees in a lawsuit. And there have been other cases when the victims simply weighed the cost and find it cheaper to pay and walk away than to fight it out for justice. Motor accidents must have many of such incidents. Is our legal system really accessible to the poor victims? A few who have met the criteria of being shamefully poor may be able to get legal aids and assistance. But many will not fit in. I can safely said that legal justice is available to those who can afford to pay for it or those who are so poor to qualify for aid. In the case of tort or non criminal lawsuits, it is unlikely that legal aids or assistance will be available. Correct me if I am misinformed on this. Is there anyway to make our justice system more accessible to the masses and the victims of injustice? I was reminded of the American 'contingency fee based system' which means no legal fees unless the case is won. I am still disturbed by the fact that this practice is not allowed here? What is so criminal or unjust or unfair to have such a system? Under the present system, like it or not, when a lawsuit is knocking, you have to pay up first. Be prepared to pay and hope to win to claim damages against the other party. No money you lose by default. A 'contingency fee based system' will allow the lawyers to judge a case and take on the other party when there are merits for it. This in a way can stamp the frivolours lawsuits initiated by those with deep pockets. The govt's legal aid can also provide such a service based on the merits of a case rather than on how poor is the applicant. Justice will then be available to the innocent and not innocent and poor. And the cost can be claimed from the other party. It is not necessarily a totally free service. The availability of such a service will level the floors in the public courts and also provide more businesses for the legal profession. Of course spurious and frivolous cases will be lesser as the bully will know that justice is available to the poor and innocent as well.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Throughout Human History, there is always a price to justice, meaning justice has a price and U can hav justice if U can afford to pay for it.

So, if one can't afford to buy justice, jus be prepared for injustice lah.