Public Defender’s Office Commences Operations on 1 December 2022
1 December 2022 Posted in Press releases
- Following the passing of the Public Defenders Act in Parliament on 1 August 2022, the Public Defender’s Office (“PDO”) has been established under the Ministry of Law (“MinLaw”) and will commence operations from 1 December 2022. The PDO will provide criminal defence aid to those who face non-capital criminal charges in Singapore but are unable to afford legal representation due to limited means. This will enhance access to justice for vulnerable Singaporeans who find it challenging to afford legal representation.
- The PDO was officially launched by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Mr Lawrence Wong today. He was joined by Chief Justice, Mr Sundaresh Menon SC, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law, Mr K Shanmugam SC, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law, Mr Edwin Tong SC, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Law, Mdm Rahayu Mahzam, and Attorney-General, Mr Lucien Wong SC. Representatives from the Judiciary, Attorney-General’s Chambers (“AGC”), the Law Society of Singapore, Pro Bono SG, partner agencies, law academics and legal professionals attended the event.
- With the establishment of the PDO, we have also expanded criminal defence aid coverage to benefit more vulnerable Singaporeans. The changes include raising the income limit from the 25th percentile to cover up to the 35th percentile of resident households and widening the scope of coverage to all types of criminal offences, with specific exceptions.
Appointment of the Chief Public Defender
- The PDO is helmed by Mr Wong Kok Weng. Mr Wong, who is a former Deputy Public Prosecutor in AGC, will oversee the operations and administration of the PDO and ensure that deserving applicants receive aid. As the Chief Public Defender, Mr Wong will also appoint and assign public defenders to represent aided accused persons in court. (See Annex for Mr Wong’s profile.)
Aid Application Process to the PDO
- Singaporeans and Permanent Residents may apply for Government-funded criminal defence aid online at the PDO’s website, or in-person at the MinLaw Services Centre (45 Maxwell Road) or State Courts HELP Centre (1 Havelock Square). For applicants who are in remand or prison, they may apply directly through the Singapore Prison Service.
- The PDO will assess the means and merits of applications and work in partnership with Pro Bono SG, which will continue to provide criminal defence aid under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, to co-deliver criminal defence aid smoothly and expeditiously to applicants who meet the means and merits tests.
- Cases which are assessed to be urgent, such as remand cases where the applicant’s likely sentence would be less than his/her remand period, or cases involving minors who are turning 21 years old, will be represented by a public defender from the PDO. This is to ensure that legal representation is provided to the applicant as early as possible. The remaining eligible cases, which will form the majority of cases, will be allocated between the PDO and Pro Bono SG.
- For more information on the PDO, please visit https://pdo.mlaw.gov.sg.
MINISTRY OF LAW
1 DECEMBER 2022
Annex - Profile of Chief Public Defender Wong Kok Weng
Last updated on 1 December 2022