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  Frequent Asked Questions

1. Is the Duty Lawyer Service part of the Legal Aid Department?

No, the Duty Lawyer Service is not part of the Legal Aid Department and in fact it is not even a government department.

It is an independent organization fully funded by the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region managed by the Hong Kong Bar Association and the Law Society of Hong Kong.

2. What is the difference between the Duty Lawyer Service and the Legal Aid Department?

  The main differences between the two bodies are:

The Legal Aid Department is a government department while the Duty Lawyer Service is not.

Except in committal proceedings, the Legal Aid Department does not offer any representation or assistance to members of the public in magistrates courts; legal representation and assistance are offered by the Duty Lawyer Service in all magistrates courts.

The Legal Aid Department can offer legal representation and assistance in civil proceedings while the Duty Lawyer Service does not have such power.

3. Are Duty Lawyers government lawyers? Would they fight the case for the defendants as hard as the private lawyers do?

The Duty Lawyers are not government lawyers. All the Duty Lawyers are privately practising lawyers. We employ their service to represent the defendants at trials according to their experience, seniority and expertise.

The Duty Lawyers are paid for their service. They will do their best to protect the interest of the defendants they are representing.

4. Would the Duty Lawyers press the defendants to plead guilty to the charges in order to have less work?

Our Duty Lawyer will not press any defendants to plead guilty to the charges. It is the duty of a Duty Lawyer to explain and advise the defendant the strength of the prosecution case and that of the defence

He will also advise the defendant on the difference in sentence between pleading guilty and found guilty.

But whether to plead guilty or not is entirely a decision of the defendant.

The Duty Lawyer is to act according to the instructions of the defendant unless it is against the Bar or Solicitor Code of Conduct to do so.

5. Would a defendant be given enough time to have conference with the Duty Lawyer before appearing in court?

A Duty Lawyer may have conference with the defendant prior to the day of hearing if he considers necessary.

Otherwise, he will have a conference with the defendant on the morning of the day of hearing. In any case, if either the Duty Lawyer or the defendant requires more time to discuss the case before commencing the hearing, the Duty Lawyer will apply to court to have the case stand down so to enable the conference to be continued and usually the court will grant such application.

A defendant will have enough time to discuss with and seek advice from the Duty Lawyer prior to commencement of the hearing of his case.

In any event, the defendant will have at least one full interview with the Court Liaison Officer at which full instruction and statement will be taken.

6. The service of the Free Legal Advice Scheme is free, would the lawyers deal with the cases too casually?

All the lawyers of the Free Legal Advice Scheme join the Scheme on a total volunteer basis; they consider it as a contribution to the society

They can withdraw from the Scheme at any time when they do not feel like it. Therefore each and every volunteer lawyer attending the interview will advise the clients as far and best as he/she can.

But since the Scheme is designed to provide preliminary legal advice only and no representation and/or follow action can be arranged, there is certainly a limit on the service offered.

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Legal Assistance Scheme for Non-refoulement Claimants
Annual Report 2021