"The new procedures for granting legal aid are to be welcomed but should have been introduced years ago," Labour justice
spokesperson Phil Goff said today.
"The Government has moved at glacial pace on the issue as recommendations for change were made to it by the Legal
Services Board and the Justice Select Committee three years ago.
"A commitment to ensuring all New Zealanders have access to justice regardless of wealth or income is fundamental to our
system of justice. However transparent procedures for granting legal aid and a proper system of accountability is
critical if the legal aid is to be granted to the right people and protected against rip-offs from some unscrupulous
"Part of the cause of the rapid growth in legal aid is new legislation by Government including the Domestic Violence
Act. But recent revelations of very high legal aid payments to some lawyers and some beneficiaries who could clearly
afford to pay for their own legal advice have highlighted the need for better procedures.
"The ability of the Legal Services Board to make decisions across the board will ensure a consistent and professional
approach to granting legal aid. Establishing an appeal provision provides a safeguard for applicants who might be
"A Public Defenders Office is an idea which merits a trial. As its lawyers will not be paid by the hour, there is no
incentive to drag cases out for higher remuneration. The reputation of the office will depend on the employment of
efficient and effective legal staff. It must not be seen as providing second class legal advice.
"Promoting alternatives to expensive litigation such as mediation is also sensible. I welcome the input of the Legal
Services Board into these decisions.
"The legislation will be carefully considered by the select committee and passed by the incoming Labour Government next
year," Mr Goff said.