THE BLOG
09/11/2017 06:59 GMT | Updated 09/11/2017 06:59 GMT

Teaching People How To Gain Access To Justice

Coming from a legal background, one of my first priorities when I was elected a Member of Parliament was to promote pro bono and teach people about the rule of law. Pro bono is an ancient legal tradition that widens access to justice by providing legal services free of charge to those who can't afford a lawyer.

Coming from a legal background, one of my first priorities when I was elected a Member of Parliament was to promote pro bono and teach people about the rule of law.

Pro bono is an ancient legal tradition that widens access to justice by providing legal services free of charge to those who can't afford a lawyer.

I have always been a firm believer that the legal community should take the time to spread knowledge to people young and old, about their legal rights and responsibilities. To further the cause, I recently set up a Public Legal Education Panel (PLE), which has brought together organisations specialising in legal education, all with a common goal - to help people get access to justice.

I have focussed my efforts on other areas as well, which have included combatting domestic violence and hate crime, and protecting trafficked victims. Educating people about the law helps individuals develop the confidence and skills to gain access to justice, so in many ways PLE is an important tool in assisting victims of crime.

Victims and their loved ones need to know what their legal options are and where to go to for help. It can sometimes seem bewildering to even know how to report a crime, never mind what happens next. Victims often also need other important advice such as where to seek refuge, and this is where legal education comes in, and why it is so important that we teach people about the law.

Some people call this 'just in time' PLE - education given just in time for people who require it in an emergency.

In some cases, victims are not even aware they are a victim. Quite often, human traffickers target those who are vulnerable, those who are homeless or have just been released from prison and are desperate for work. And, even if they do know they are a victim, they may be distrustful of the Criminal Justice System because of law enforcement culture in their home country, or just too scared to come forward as they may have committed an offence themselves.

Teaching people about the law means they have a greater understanding of their legal rights and responsibilities. It also gives people confidence in our Criminal Justice System and the Rule of Law.

There is a variety of legal protection and practical help available - it is getting this information to victims just in time, so that they are aware of what is out there and they have the confidence to access it.

PLE goes further than victims - it can also educate the public so that they recognise a crime. This could be a neighbour reporting domestic violence to the police, or that someone is living in servitude next door, but they can only do this if they realise these offences are happening. These are crimes that we can all play a part in tackling, we just have to make sure all the facts and information is out there.

There are many ways to teach people about the law. It can be in the form of interactive presentations, mock trials and role play exercises, to awareness raising campaigns or information in leaflets. Different organisations tailor their programmes to different groups, from educating primary and secondary school pupils to prison inmates, community groups and homeless people.

Teaching people about the law really can make a difference to people's lives. It may even help save a life. Ensuring people know their rights and are aware of how the Rule of Law works, even improves the quality of our legal system as a whole. The UK has one of the best legal services in the world - let's make sure everyone can reap its benefits when they need to.

Got a question about PLE? I will be hosting a Twitter Q&A from @attorneygeneral on Friday 10 November at 13:00. #AskTheSG