Poor need greater access to justice: Sylvia Lim

Poor need greater access to justice: Sylvia Lim

The poor should have greater access to justice, especially regarding plea bargains and bail conditions, argued Ms Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC).

"It is a fact across the world that the rich and the poor access the criminal justice system differently," said the Workers' Party chairman yesterday (may28).

"While the rich have the resources to engage expensive lawyers... the poor have to make decisions based on their means."

This sometimes means pleading guilty, when they do not have the time or resources to contest their charges.

The former police officer and current criminal lawyer gave two suggestions.

The first: ensure that an upcoming plea-bargaining framework grants those entering such bargains legal representation, even if they cannot afford their own lawyers.

"Early resolution of cases is good for the court system and for public resources," she said.

But there is a risk of those who take up such bargains "not being aware of the effect of certain types of convictions on their future prospects".

Her second suggestion was for the courts to consider non-monetary bail.

"The ability to be released on bail before trial is important, especially when one intends to contest the charge," she said.

"Being at liberty allows a person to keep his job - he can also prepare his defence more effectively."

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