News

Court Friends offer emotional, practical support

While many Singaporeans spend days off resting at home or going on holidays, she uses hers for a nobler cause.

In her free time, the admin worker, who requested to remain anonymous, volunteers as a Court Friend at the Family Courts.

The woman, who is single and in her early 40s, said: "I want to give back to society and I enjoy helping others."Court friends like her help people who don't have lawyers in providing emotional and practical support.

Even though they are not allowed to give legal advice, they can help with tasks such as providing information on court procedures and assisting in note-taking during hearings.

The trial for court friends at the Family Courts started in August.

Due to its success, the initiative was officially announced when the new Family Justice Courts opened yesterday.

Its spokesman said the court may, at any stage of proceedings, refer an unrepresented person to the Community Justice Centre (CJC) or other pro-bono agencies for the assignment of a court friend to assist him or her.

The person can decide if he wants the help.

Executive director of the CJC Leonard Lee told The New Paper that his organisation has 20 court friends.

He added: "They are all mature adults from all walks of life, including university lecturers and managers."

So far, the volunteer TNP spoke to has helped out three people at the Family Courts - a man and two women.

Even though she declined to give details of their cases, she said one of the women did not know how to speak English and needed her assistance in the proceedings.

SUPPORT

She added: "Most of the time, I gave them information on court processes. I also gave them emotional support.

"They later told me that they really appreciated my contribution."

A woman who wanted to be known as Ms Anna, 38, said her divorce was finalised last month.

She said: "The process was very smooth, thanks to my lawyer. But I'm sure that those who don't have one will find it very difficult - especially those who are less educated."

They are all mature adults from all walks of life, including university lecturers and managers.

- Executive director of the Community Justice Centre Leonard Lee, who told The New Paper that his organisation has 20 court friends