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Judiciary News and Current Issues

MEDIA RELEASE - OPENING OF THE LEGAL YEAR 2024

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1. The Opening of the Legal Year took place at the Supreme Court on Thursday 1 February 2024 corresponding to 20 Rejab 1445. The annual event gathered members of the Judiciary and the legal profession to mark the start of the court’s judicial year. The ceremony began with the Guard of Honour parade by the Royal Brunei Police Force which was inspected by the Honourable Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Dato Seri Paduka Steven Chong.

2. The tradition of Opening the Legal Year underscores the central role of the Judiciary in the administration of justice. It also focuses attention on the legal community with speeches delivered by the Honourable Chief Justice, followed by the Attorney General, Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Paduka Haji Ahmad bin Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Bakti Di-Raja Dato Laila Utama Haji Awang Isa and the President of the Law Society, Yang Mulia Nur ‘Azizah binti Dato Seri Paduka Haji Ahmad, in representing advocates and solicitors in Brunei Darussalam.

3. In his annual address, the Chief Justice emphasized the importance of a well-functioning justice system for society, not only in terms of economic growth but also for the community as a whole. The Chief Justice said “a well-functioning justice system is one that helps individuals and families to move on and build a positive future, it includes a criminal justice system that deters people from committing crimes and is one that helps businesses move forward and function with more stability and certainty in dealing with their disputes.”

4. The Chief Justice went on to highlight key developments in the past year, which included the appointment of The Right Honourable Sir Peter Gross as Judicial Commissioner to the Court of Appeal in October 2023. He spoke of Sir Peter Gross’s experience as a leading international commercial judge with a legal career spanning over 40 years and how his appointment will “strengthen the breadth and depth of the Bench.”

5. He went on to inform of the Judiciary’s continuing international engagement with foreign courts. In particular, the formalisation of judicial cooperation through the signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation with the Department of Justice of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China in May 2023 and a Memorandum of Understanding with the Supreme Court of Singapore in July 2023. The Chief Justice stated that both agreements put in place an institutional framework to “strengthen communication, collaboration and cooperation on issues relating to dispute avoidance and resolution.”

6. The Chief Justice reported on the past year’s statistics, where he highlighted that “for the 12-month period ending in December 2023, the clearance rate of criminal matters in the Magistrates’ Courts stands at 80% whereas the clearance rate for civil matters stands at 83%, marking an improvement from the previous year’s rates of 77% and 63%, respectively.” He also added that in terms of time taken for the delivery of judgments in the Magistrates’ Courts, 91.8% of judgments for criminal matters and 80% of judgments for civil matters were delivered within the target of between 1 to 3 months from the close of submissions.

7. The Chief Justice highlighted that “the number of civil and commercial cases filed in the Court of Appeal, High Court, Intermediate Court and Magistrates’ Courts have continued on an upward trend since 2022, again signalling a positive return for civil and commercial litigation post COVID-19.” He added that the Probate Registry also had a busy and productive year with a marked increase in the number of applications received and granted for letters of administration and that “the number of receiving orders and adjudication orders filed have continued to rise” for bankruptcies. Meanwhile, the number of applications for registration of marriages and divorce petitions dropped and that “the number of criminal cases filed in Bandar Seri Begawan Magistrates’ Court also saw a decrease” in 2023.

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8. Issues relating to the legal profession were addressed by the Chief Justice where he mentioned the difficulties faced in getting practitioners to take on legal aid assignments for capital cases. He called for the introduction of a “mandatory Continuing Professional Development (CPD) scheme” in order to incentivise legal aid programmes while also encouraging practitioners to “achieve core competencies at different stages of their legal practice in order to maintain high professional standards.” The Chief Justice also spoke about “the need for rules governing conduct in relation to fees and the professional duty to provide clients with information on fees.” He called for the enactment of rules on adequate professional services in order to prescribe standards of client care so that lawyers are fair and transparent when charging clients for work done by them.

9. The Opening of the Legal Year ceremony was 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 Mulia Dato Seri Paduka Haji Sufian bin Haji Sabtu, Deputy Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office (Security and Law) and Yang Mulia Dato Seri Paduka Awang Mohd Riza bin Dato Paduka Haji Mohd Yunos, Deputy Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office (Civil Service Governance).

10. The ceremony was also attended by The Honourable Chief Syarie Judge, Ambassadors and High Commissioners, Senior Government Officials, members of the Judiciary from the Civil and Syariah Courts, Attorney General’s Chambers, Law Society, and members of various government enforcement agencies.​

SUPREME COURT OF BRUNEI DARUSSALAM
THURSDAY 1 FEBRUARY 2024


Terjemahan Legal Year 2024 Press Release

Photo credits: INFOFOTO

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Created at 01/02/2024 06:59 PM by Mohamad Jazmi bin Hj Mohamad Kamel
Last modified at 07/02/2024 09:45 AM by Mohamad Jazmi bin Hj Mohamad Kamel