This Week In Court

– week of 15th May –

If someone’s remand period could extend beyond the sentence they are likely to get if they are found guilty, surely their court proceedings should be expedited, and they should be able to get the legal counsel they require in time. Alternatively, they should be released on bail. Unfortunately, this week in court, we saw that when two men faced delays in receiving legal aid due to the fact they are Cantonese-speaking, the judge encouraged them to just plead guilty, so that they wouldn’t be remanded for longer than their sentence would be. 

We also saw, once again, how fines come to bear a far greater burden on people without the means to pay them. An unemployed woman requested 7 months to fully pay a $2500 fine, but a judge thought it was too small an amount to warrant a 7-month installment plan. Without the installment plan, the woman may either have to borrow the money to pay, or serve a default sentence.

Case 1:

2 men appeared via Zoom from remand to inform the court that it would take 2-3 months for them to get a lawyer from the PDO (legal aid) as they required Cantonese-speaking officers. District Judge Tan Jen Tse warned them that their remand period might end up being longer than their sentence if they were to wait that long, so it’s important they make a decision.

The men were unsure if they should plead guilty, and required a lawyer’s assistance. DJ Tan told them to “decide for [themselves]” and that they would “do [themselves] more harm” if they didn’t plead guilty right away, and ended saying, “I have nothing to say”.

Case 2:

A woman facing a $2500 fine wished to have an installment plan to pay it back over the course of 7 months. Installment plans for fine repayment are not uncommon, but District Judge Tan Jen Tse claimed that $2500 is a small amount and therefore did not require 7 months to paid.

The woman’s lawyer argued that she was unemployed, which is why she required a longer time.

$2500 is not a small amount of money to most of us. Even someone with a full-time job would struggle to pay that amount in one go. If the woman is committed to paying the full amount, why should it matter if it takes 1 month or 7 months?

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