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Judiciary News and Current Issues

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28 JANUARY 2021


1. To mark the opening of the 2021 legal year, the Honourable Chief Justice Dato Seri Paduka Steven Chong addressed the country’s legal fraternity and reflected on key developments in the courts in 2020 and set forth various initiatives to be undertaken by the Judiciary for the year ahead.

2. In delivering his annual speech, the Chief Justice detailed the judiciary's response to the pandemic and how “the Judiciary has the responsibility to remain open and functional even during times of crisis”. He stated that the main priority has been to ensure the health and safety of its personnel and the public, whilst minimizing disruption for services that cannot proceed as normal. Despite ceasing some physical operations temporarily in the early half of 2020 due to the COVID-19 situation, the Chief Justice said that “with the help of technology, the courts were still deemed ‘open’ for the purpose of filing, issuing and returning of processes and for making orders via our e-Filing system”.

3. The Chief Justice added that the use of Microsoft Teams and Zoom for the conduct of remote hearings and video conferencing allowed for the continued functioning of the courts. He highlighted a case heard in October 2020 where Judicial Commissioner, Justice Kannan Ramesh in Singapore conducted a High Court hearing virtually on Zoom with witnesses in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and counsel in Brunei.

4. The Chief Justice stated that in ensuring timeliness and efficiency in delivering justice, the Judiciary has focused on tackling issues relating to the backlog of cases and delays in disposing of cases. Giving a sense of the current caseload in the courts, he said that from 2019 to 2020, for criminal cases filed in the Intermediate Court 74% of cases were cleared whereas for criminal cases filed in the Magistrates Court 81% of cases were cleared. For commercial cases filed in the Intermediate Court, 84% of cases were cleared whereas for civil cases in the Magistrate’s Court 81% of cases were cleared. The Chief Justice said that the average time taken to dispose of commercial cases in the Intermediate Court in 2019 was 344 days, which shows a marked improvement from the data in 2018 where it took an average of 598 days. He added that statistics have shown that from January to December 2020, 93% of judgments in the Magistrates Court and 84% of judgments in the Intermediate Court were delivered between 1 to 3 months.

5. Touching on the post-pandemic legal landscape, the Chief Justice emphasized that whilst significant improvements have been made “it is to be expected that there will be a backlog of cases which were filed before or during the COVID-19 closure … [and] the backlog, if not addressed, poses not only administrative problems but also economic ones. As such, all stakeholders must assist to facilitate the prompt and efficient resolution and disposition of these disputes.”

6. The Chief Justice underscored the Judiciary’s continuing efforts to effect payments to creditors from Official Receivers’ accounts set up for bankruptcy and insolvency matters and announced that from January to October 2020, payments of composition and dividends have been declared in 430 cases totaling $17,957,779.83. He added that the number of rescission orders granted increased from 59 cases in 2019 to 147 cases as of 31 October 2020.

7. In his speech, the Chief Justice announced various initiatives for 2021, which included the formation of a committee to review pupillage training. The committee will be chaired by the Chief Registrar and will comprise of members from the Attorney General’s Chambers and Law Society who will work together to develop a comprehensive framework for the training of pupils. He said that “it is imperative that the standards and quality of training for those who wish to qualify to the Bar is regulated” and added that “improving the standard of pupillage will ensure that young lawyers will be better equipped to meet the multifaceted challenges of the legal profession.” He went on to commend senior members of the Bar for taking on pro bono cases for accused persons who cannot afford to pay for legal services and encouraged young lawyers to volunteer their services to serve the community.

8. The Chief Justice also urged the Attorney General’s Chambers and the Law Society to work together with the Judiciary to prepare a Code of Practice for the Conduct of Criminal Proceedings by the Prosecution in order to ensure due process and fair outcomes in the criminal justice process.

9. The Chief Justice’s speech was followed by speeches from the Attorney General, Yang Berhormat Haji Ahmad bin bin Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Bakti Di-Raja Dato Laila Utama Haji Awang Isa and the President of the Law Society, Pengiran Izad Ryan bin Pengiran Laila Kanun DiRaja Pengiran Hj Bahrin.

10. The annual event was conducted in a scaled down manner when compared to previous years to take into account social distancing measures and was attended by selected members of the legal fraternity, comprising members of the Judiciary, Attorney General’s Chambers and the Law Society.

11. The opening of the legal year ceremony was also attended by Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Bakti Di-Raja Dato Laila Utama Haji Awang Isa bin Pehin Datu Perdana Manteri Dato Laila Utama Haji Awang Ibrahim, Special Adviser to his Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Haji Awang Abdul Mokti bin Haji Mohd Daud, Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office, The Honourable Chief Syarie Judge, State Dignitaries, Members of the Legislative Council, Ambassadors and High Commissioners, Senior Government Officials, members of the Judiciary from the Syariah Courts and representatives from various government enforcement agencies.

To download the Legal Year 2021 Statistics

To download the Legal Year 2021 e-book

Created at 28/01/2021 11:49 AM by Mohamad Jazmi bin Hj Mohamad Kamel
Last modified at 28/01/2021 02:29 PM by Mohamad Jazmi bin Hj Mohamad Kamel