GEORGE TOWN: Night shifts for courts, to clear a backlog of cases exacerbated by movement control restrictions, are among measures suggested by lawyers for inclusion in the 2022 federal government budget estimates.
Massive digitalisation of courts, more funding to the legal aid bureau so the poor can get free services from lawyers, and extra spending for the upkeep of courthouses are also among the ideas.
Kamil Munim, who called for more funding for a night court system, said a shift system can be introduced so that long-standing cases can be disposed of quickly.
“The night courts system will also allow those working in the day to settle their legal matters during their free time, and allow courts to hear traffic and other minor cases,” he added.
Andrew Khoo said the budget should set aside funds for more remote hearing rooms in prisons, remand centres and other detention centres so as to allow online hearings to be held.
He said outside the courts, more CCTV cameras ought to be set up at interrogation rooms, detention cells of all police stations, including money for general maintenance for all stations.
Khoo said prisons should also be given funds to set up internet access for inmates so that they can keep in touch with their families and allow them to be computer literate, as part of a rehabilitation process.
Ruebankumar Asokan said the government ought to urgently invest in better in-court cameras and computers that allow witnesses to testify remotely and to facilitate online hearing of cases.
Gowri Subbaiyah said auto-transcription video cameras should be included in the cart, so that testimonies can be transcribed automatically, saving hours of work.
Drug-use cases should be treated as medical problem
Tharumarajah Thiagarajan said those charged with drug-use should not be arrested and charged in court, as it caused a backlog in courts. He said instead, funding should be given to diverting such cases to be treated as medical problems.
He said separate courts specialising in distinct matters such as family matters and others should be considered.
David Gurupatham said the government should allow lawyers’ firms to be incorporated as a company or a limited liability partnership, so as to allow them to grow and expand. He said the government must also help local legal firms to expand their services beyond Malaysia.
He suggested digitalisation grants for smaller legal firms, to allow them to equip themselves for online work. The eligibility of free legal services under the Legal Aid Bureau ought to be expanded, with young lawyers being funded for every case they take up from the bureau.
Most courthouses in bad shape
Almost all lawyers that spoke to FMT said the state of courthouses in the country was found wanting, with Gabriel Susayan saying the lift breakdowns at the Shah Alam court complex was intolerable.
One lawyer said the High Court complex in George Town, which was the birthplace of the country’s legal system, has yet to be repaired since its closure in 2018 and was quickly falling into disrepair despite promises to fix it.
Lawyers said most courts in the country had furniture that was in need of replacement. There was a lack of proper waiting and dining facilities for lawyers and those attending court. Structural problems such as cracks and falling ceilings were also concerns highlighted.
A member of the judiciary said more judicial commissioners and judges are needed to lower the caseload and more books for the libraries of courts are needed.