As part of the Malaysian Government’s initiatives to transform its legal aid services, the Dewan Negara of the Parliament of Malaysia has recently approved the Legal Aid (Amendment) Bill 2017. One of the objectives of the Bill is to revise the means test to introduce a more practical approach to determine a person’s eligibility for legal aid. In this respect, the amendment is expected to streamline the grant of legal aid service to low income earners who are under the Government’s special aid programs such as BR1M.
Another important amendment is the introduction of a legal companion service. Once enforceable, this service will be available to all children who are victims of criminal offences. Among the functions of a legal companion are to advice the guardian of a child victim on legal matters and to accompany the child in any court proceeding and, with the leave of the court, to speak on his behalf. In short, a legal compaion will protect the legal interest of a child and to act as his comforter especially during court proceedings.