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Proposed restructuring of Legal Service to allow for greater specialisation: Ministry of Law

SINGAPORE: Proposed changes to the Singapore legal service could see the creation of a separate judicial service, which would have about 220 officers including assistant registrars in the Supreme Court as well as district judges and magistrates in the State Courts and Family Courts.

Meanwhile, a reconstituted Legal Service Commission would include 580 legal service officers holding other non-judicial posts, in Government agencies such as the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

The changes would be made through two Bills - namely the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment) Bill and the Judicial Service (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill - which were tabled by the Ministry of Law (MinLaw) for a first reading on Monday (Oct 4). 

If passed, the changes are expected to be implemented in January next year.

The changes would allow both services to reap the benefits of greater specialisation, said MinLaw in a media release.

“With greater flexibility to adapt their personnel management frameworks to their respective needs and circumstances, the two Services will be better positioned to meet the growing demands of an increasingly complex and rapidly evolving legal landscape,” the ministry said. 

Making the changes now, while the system is still stable, would provide space for any refinements to be made after the restructuring is implemented, it added.

In July this year, Member of Parliament Murali Pillai (PAP-Bukit Batok) had filed an adjournment motion, calling on the Government to study the feasibility of setting up a separate commission for judicial officers. 

Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam had said then that the integrated model had served Singapore’s needs so far, noting the country’s “limited talent pool”. 

He added that the Government was prepared to consider restructuring the legal service, and that a working group had been set up to study the issues that might arise, should the restructuring proceed.

In 2014, separate judicial and legal career tracks were set up for middle-rank legal service officers to allow for greater specialisation while still retaining the flexibility of an integrated model. 

MinLaw said on Monday that the Government had decided to proceed with the proposed restructuring, drawing on the considerations set out by Mr Shanmugam. This included retaining certain “desirable features” of the current model, such as ensuring breadth of exposure for younger officers.  

“The Government has agreed that it is an appropriate time to make these structural changes to the Legal Service,” said Mr Shanmugam. 

“The decision was taken after discussions with the Chief Justice and the Attorney-General; and consideration of the pros and cons of specialisation (including the impact of the changes in 2014), the current size of the Legal Service, and the working group’s findings.”

The restructuring would see the Chief Justice serve as president of the Judicial Service Commission, while the Attorney General would serve as president of the Legal Service Commission. 

The chairman of the Public Service Commission (PSC) would serve as vice-president of both commissions. 

MinLaw said the working group had studied the transitional issues involved in the restructuring of the legal service, and submitted its findings to the Government on Sep 22. 

The group had offered its recommendations - reflecting feedback from a series of townhalls open to all legal service officers - on key issues such as minimising disruption to judicial and legal organisations, agencies, and the work and development of legal officers, it said. 

Source: CNA/az


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