Channel NewsAsia
Updated: 03/07/2014 13:10 | By Channel NewsAsia

Newly-named State Courts to help offenders take charge of own rehab efforts

Newly-named State Courts to help offenders take charge of own rehab efforts

Newly-named State Courts to help offenders take charge of own rehab efforts

SINGAPORE: A court which lets offenders take responsibility over their own rehabilitation efforts will be set up by the newly-named State Courts, which was previously known as the Subordinate Courts.

Called the Progress Accountability Court, it will provide support to offenders post-sentencing to reduce their chances of re-offending.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon announced this at the inaugural State Courts Workplan 2014 on Friday.

This marks the dawn of a new era in Singapore's judicial history as the Subordinate Courts are renamed the State Courts.

Besides a new name, the State Courts will also set up a new Progress Accountability Court to motivate offenders to take responsibility as they attempt to make positive changes in their lives.

Chief Justice Menon said: "It is anticipated that in the first stage, the Progress Accountability Court will focus on offenders who have been sentenced to probation and community-based sentences. This would entail the court overseeing the progress of such offenders through regular as well as ad hoc progress reviews."

If it's successful, he said a similar scheme for offenders given reformative training may be next.

Chief Justice Menon said: "Attention will be given in particular to those who require closer supervision and monitoring, so as to help them along the road to reform and to stay crime-free."

He added that the State Courts are now in talks with relevant agencies on the implementation of the new court.

Building on his push for alternative dispute resolution, Chief Justice Menon said the State Courts will consolidate efforts to improve and promote the quality of this approach with the launch of the Centre for Dispute Resolution.

He said the centre will work with other agencies and stakeholders, such as the Singapore Mediation Centre and the Ministry of Social and Family Development, so that consensual dispute resolution is considered as early as possible.

The centre will also partner schools and universities to promote alternative dispute resolution outreach and training.

Last year, Chief Justice Menon had announced that a Primary Justice Project, where lawyers will provide basic legal services to clients, will be rolled out.

On Friday, he said the scheme will be launched within the next two months, saying those lawyers will provide services for a fixed fee for up to six hours, with the aim of achieving an amicable resolution through mediation or negotiation.

For the past 16 months, Chief Justice Menon has also been pushing for the State Courts to be more accessible to the public.

To this end, a "Friends of Litigants-in-Person" programme (FLIP) will be implemented.

To help litigants-in-person better understand court processes, the State Courts and the Community Justice Centre will coordinate a group of volunteers to provide practical guidance, including case preparation and trial support to the litigants.

Chief Justice Menon said: "The scheme will be launched imminently as a pilot with the initial focus on civil disputes before gradually being extended to other disputes."

And to equip the young with a better grasp of the juvenile justice system, the State Courts will be organising workshops.  - CNA/xq/de

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