Accused persons receiving legal aid barred from casinos, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Accused persons receiving legal aid barred from casinos

Those receiving criminal legal aid are no longer allowed to enter casinos and jackpot rooms here, or access their Singapore Pools betting account while they receive representation.

The new rule, which came into force on April 1, affects accused persons receiving defence aid from both the Public Defender’s Office (PDO) and under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme (Clas), said the PDO on its website. Clas is run by Pro Bono SG, a charity.

These individuals will be allowed to access gambling venues only within two weeks after they no longer receive legal aid, or when their case is concluded in court, in a move welcomed by criminal lawyers.

A spokesman from the Ministry of Law (MinLaw) said the exclusion is meant to “safeguard the financial situation of aid recipients, in view of their financially vulnerable circumstances”.

“All existing recipients of criminal defence aid are affected by this exclusion. However, only a small number have records of visiting the casinos, jackpot machine rooms, or have an online gambling account with Singapore Pools,” added the spokesman.

The PDO, a department under MinLaw, was launched in December 2022 and covers Singapore citizens and permanent residents up to the 35th income percentile. Clients must also pass a merits test to assess whether they will benefit from representation or have reasonable grounds to defend or appeal against their case.

Public defenders do not cover certain types of offences, including those related to gambling, organised and syndicate crime, and terrorism.

Pro bono lawyers are also available from Clas which, unlike the PDO, also represents foreigners and covers offences including illegal moneylending. The Government has been funding 75 per cent of Clas since 2015.

Lawyers whom ST spoke to said the move was timely to prevent potential abuses of the system. They noted that the recent launch of the PDO means more taxpayers’ money is being channelled to providing legal aid.

Invictus Law founder Josephus Tan said: “It doesn’t really align if the client cannot afford legal representation but can afford to buy Toto.”