Mandatory modules in the works for law students, lawyers to plug ‘notable gaps’ in legal


FAMILY JUSTICE INITIATIVES

To continue efforts to better provide access to justice in the Family Justice Courts, the new Family Justice Rules are slated to come into effect in 2024.

The rules have a simplified structure to ease navigation and also adopt a simpler terminology which will be especially useful for individuals representing themselves in court.

Under the rules, more commonly used court forms will also be completely digitalised with a step-by-step process with guides to prompt users on what they need to submit.

The Family Justice Courts aims to also introduce a triage process to apply a therapeutic, problem-solving approach to fresh divorce and guardianship matters.

“This will help to identify high-needs and high-conflict cases early, and these will be typically handled by a multi-disciplinary team, comprising the hearing judge, a mediator and a counsellor or psychologist,” Chief Justice Menon said.

The aim is to find durable solutions addressing the particular needs of each case through a firm judge-led process and help avoid unnecessary court proceedings and the escalation of acrimony.

CIVIL JUSTICE INITIATIVES

Another key move is to extend the simplified process for magistrate’s courts to district court proceedings, which will allow individuals to disclose their documents upfront with early and active case management that will not only help save time and costs but enhance access to justice.

This is in addition to a possible introduction of an express track scheme for a speedier resolution to civil proceedings.

Cost guidelines for civil cases at the district courts are also being developed to promote transparency on the likely costs that will be awarded.

“The Singapore Mediation Centre also introduces a new alternative civil dispute resolution service known as Integraf, or the Integrated Appropriate Dispute Resolution Framework.

“This will enable parties to apply one or more dispute resolution solutions, such as mediation and neutral evaluation, to different aspects of a dispute,” Chief Justice Menon said.

Integraf will be suitable for civil proceedings involving long-term complex commercial projects with multiple stakeholders and international or cross-border contracts across various industries that include building and construction, technology and infrastructure, and joint ventures.

MENTAL HEALTH OF PROSECUTORS HANDLING DEATH PENALTY CASES

Attorney-General Lucien Wong, another speaker at the opening of the legal year, touched on how the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) has helped its officers engage in self-care in an effort to ensure a “fair, thriving, resilient and united” legal service.

Among the initiatives launched by the AGC is the establishment of a resiliency team, led by an in-house psychologist.

“Having our own in-house psychologist means that we have a mental well-being professional who is available to provide direct support to our officers, and develop a more comprehensive approach to address the needs that may arise,” Mr Wong said.

He added that prosecutors who are handling cases involving the death penalty are some who are scheduled for mandatory check-ins with the in-house psychologist.

AGC also established the crime resiliency team and ombudspersons team to provide more avenues for support, should officers need a listening ear.

The crime resiliency team is made up of AGC officers who receive training as para-counsellors so that they are equipped to act as the first line of support when prosecutors are faced with traumatic incidents during work.

Addressing why the AGC is focusing on prosecutors, Mr Wong said that these are the individuals who are most exposed to the trauma of victims, and to the mental health and social issues faced by accused persons.

“It is therefore important that we support our prosecutors’ mental well-being, by de-stigmatising mental health issues and encouraging the seeking of help for such issues.”

This article was originally published in TODAY.



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