25 August 2011
Legal aid delays likely to get worse
Delays in processing legal aid applications, which have resulted in people being held in jail for months in Southland, are merely a taste of things to come under changes National is looking to make to the system, Labour’s Justice spokesperson Charles Chauvel says.
Yesterday, Judge Phillips, sitting in the District Court at Gore, slammed the legal aid service, saying the delays it was causing to the justice system were concerning and alarming.
“He pointed out that justice was not being achieved for the victims of crime, or for defendants, and that the court system was being stymied.
“His comments follow similar frustrations reported by Judge Saunders in Invercargill in February - he wondered if legal aid was suffering some sort of paralysis,” Charles Chauvel said.
"These failures are completely unacceptable, and yet the Ministry of Justice says it doesn’t know how many other court cases are being delayed by processing errors.
"Two weeks ago, National, supported by ACT and Peter Dunne, sent a bill imposing savage cuts to legal aid to a select committee.
"These changes would end an entitlement to legal aid to anyone earning over $22,000 per year; impose a $100 processing fee on applications; make disputing parties pay for lawyers for children; and allow the value of a person's clothing and furniture to be taken into account in granting aid.
"We have a legal aid scheme that is failing to support the justice system adequately now. Under the Dickensian system that the Government is proposing, these failures will become the norm,” Charles Chauvel said.