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Plan for Seniors' Court with features for the elderly

Lessons learnt from pilot project will be built into design of family courts' new premises

Theresa Tan on 03 Mar 2019

The Straits Times


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The Family Justice Courts (FJC) is looking at setting up a Seniors' Court with elderly-friendly features, the first of its kind here.


A spokesman for the FJC told The Sunday Times: "In response to the ageing population, it is important that we provide facilities suitable for their needs to ensure that no citizen is denied access to justice."


FJC's judges and administrators have learnt that the current layout and equipment in the courtrooms and chambers "may not be adequate" to cater to elderly court users, such as those with difficulties in hearing or seeing, she said.


So it is exploring retrofitting designated courtrooms and chambers with elderly-friendly features and infrastructure, such as ramps, anti-slip bars and hearing aids.


This will be complemented by the appropriate information technology systems.


Lessons learnt from the pilot Seniors' Court will be incorporated into the design of the FJC's new premises.


The FJC is currently located at Havelock Square, next to the State Courts. It will move to the current State Courts building, which will be refurbished, in 2023.


Lawyers and social workers welcomed the proposal to set up the Seniors' Court, particularly with Singapore's greying population.


Last year, there were 526,000 citizens aged 65 and older. This will almost double to 905,000 in 2030, based on Department of Statistics data.


Elderly court users include witnesses or those in family-related cases under the FJC's purview, like those involving family violence and mental-capacity disputes.


Lawyer Lim Chong Boon of PKWA Law Practice said: "The Seniors' Court is a good initiative to cater to the needs of the elderly and vulnerable adults who have been victimised or neglected. With Singapore's ageing population, it is likely that the number of vulnerable adults will increase."


Last December, the Vulnerable Adults Act, which increases the state's statutory powers to protect disabled and infirm adults from abuse, came into force.


According to a parliamentary reply last month, the Ministry of Social and Family Development has investigated an average of 78 cases a year of seniors above 65 years old who were said to have been abused since its Adult Protective Service was set up in 2015. Most were physically abused or neglected by a family member.


A spokesman for the Tsao Foundation said having video-conferencing facilities at the new Seniors' Court will also be helpful for those with mobility and other problems.


Lawyer Ng Bin Hong of Peter Low & Choo said that, besides elderly-friendly facilities, he hopes there will be more court officers who can speak dialects and other languages besides English and Mandarin.


This is needed as there are some seniors who do not know how to use the court's computer system for various functions, from paying fines to posting bail, or those who need guidance in other areas.


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.


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