Archive for the ‘Legal Aid’ Category

An ‘Insight’ Look at the Kajang Prison

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

 by Nur Farzana Mohd Zulkifli

When Ben Franklin said, ”It is better to know than to wonder”, he probably didn’t know how powerful those words are, or many people they would touch.  before law school or the Community Outreach programme and Clinical Legal Education course in University of Malaya I never would have envisioned a prison (at least not much) , let alone be able to talk about one from an INSIDE perspective.

Movies or books often dictate a pre-conceived set of emotions to feel ‘if and when’ you’re entering one, like fear and sympathy. Some say we should feel appalled after such an experience. What I felt after my first visit and those after that were different. There was empathy and humility, but most of all, gratitude and empowerment.

 

To clarify things a bit, what I saw in all my visits include physical infrastructures, like buildings that looked like hostel dorms, huge impenetrable-looking gates and barbwire, but also the human side of the prisons – among other things, fierce-looking wardens, extremely disciplined detainees. Note that I use the term detainees here instead of prisoners or convicts because I had only visited the juvenile-detention-center part of Kajang Prison, known as Sekolah Integrity Kajang or Kajang Integrity School. How is this different from a real prison? Well, for one the detainees there were found guilty for crimes while they were juveniles in age, while others were juveniles remanded or awaiting trial, mostly too poor to afford bail to be set free in the process; and their living quarters are separated from adult convicts in the prison, as the law demands so.

 

I was involved (and still am) in the Community Outreach Programme ( and later the Clinical Legal Education course) and our access into the Kajang Integrity School was allowed as we were there to teach these detainees about the laws, unorthodoxly using interactive teaching methods and laymen terms. Among the things I remember very clearly was what or CLE Advisor Assoc. Prof Hjh Norbani Mohamed Nazeri said to us the first time we arrived to teach,”…it’s not about you, its about them”. She was right. We were there to teach and we taught them law, but in the end, the teachers became the students.

 

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Legal Aid Bureau (Biro Bantuan Guaman) in Malaysia

Monday, July 28th, 2008

Biro Bantuan Guaman

As mentioned in our previous post, apart from the Bar Council Legal Aid Center, Biro Bantuan Guaman (Legal Aid Bureau) is another organisation which provide free legal aid to the general public in Malaysia too.  

The Biro Bantuan Guaman (BBG) is a governmental body under the Bahagian Hal Ehwal Undang-Undang, Jabatan Perdana Menteri (Legal Affair Division, Prime Minister’s Department) providing legal advice and help to deserving members of the public.

Like the Legal Aid Centre (LAC) run by the Malaysian Bar Council, the BBG provides FREE legal ADVICE and REPRESENTATION to individuals who pass their qualifying criteria. In addition, they also provide subsidised legal services, and if you do not qualify for this either, they still provide guidance.

They have branches in all states and federal territories in Malaysia and have a very informative website of their services (http://www.bheuu.gov.my/bbg/latarbelakang.shtml).

Criminal / Syariah / Civil

The BBG will provide legal advice on all aspects of the law.

However, they only provide representation for certain types of cases (see http://www.bheuu.gov.my/bbg/perkhidmatan.shtml).

The main distinction between the BBG and LAC is that the BBG will only represent clients in criminal cases where the client pleads guilty to his or her charge. The exceptions to this are in small criminal offence (Kesalahan kecil jenayah) and child criminal (Jenayah kanak-kanak) cases.

Cases may be referred to the LAC or their external panel of lawyers – but the cost is borne by the BBG so long as clients meet their qualifying criteria and their cases fall under their scope of assistance.

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Bar Council Legal Aid Center

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

KL Legal Aid Center

Is the law the sole domain of lawyers?

Do you give up if you cannot afford the services of a lawyer?

Bar Council Legal Aid Centre

The Bar Council Legal Aid Centre (BCLAC) was founded by the Malaysian Bar Council with the purpose of providing citizens equal opportunity for the enforcements of their fundamental right to equality before the law. It is one of two organisations in Malaysia which provide FREE legal ADVICE & REPRESENTATION, and it has branches to represent each state in Malaysia.

The BCLAC are actively involved in pro-bono work in the community, and conduct many programmes in cooperation with other organisation (e.g. All Women Action Society (AWAM), Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), Sisters-In-Islam (SIS), Tenaganita’s Migrant Workers Desk, Pink Triangle Foundation, United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)) to provide free legal advice & representation to relevant parties.
The BCLAC is funded by the sole contribution of members of the Bar and cases are taken on a voluntary basis by dedicated lawyers. As such, you will appreciate that their services are limited to those who truly have no means to seek representation privately.

What happens after you walk into a LAC?
The first thing that happens is that you will be interviewed to review your eligibility for their services, using the Means Test (see below). The counsellors will then review your case and provide guidance on future actions required.

If you have not brought all the required documents, the counsellors may provide preliminary advice, but will require these documents to be submitted to proceed further.

Means Test

The criteria for people who qualify for legal aid from the BCLAC are:

Applicants whose monthly income, after deduction of monthly expenses, should be:
 Single person                                    RM650
 Married couple (joint income)           RM900

 e.g. Single person      Salary           :  RM1000 p/m
                                   Monthly exp.:  RM450
                                   Balance     :  RM550 (QUALIFIED)
NOTE: Monthly expenses include rental, utility bills, medical bills, personal expenses, monies given to support parents/family, etc.

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