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Quick action required on legal aid

MEDIA RELEASE - For immediate use, 27 May 2013

Quick action required on legal aid

It is very important that the Ministry of Justice quickly reveals its action plan for how it will manage New Zealand’s legal aid system after Friday’s Court of Appeal decision, the New Zealand Law Society said today.

The convenor of the Law Society’s Legal Services Committee, Liz Bulger, said the decision meant that continuation of the criminal fixed fee system, which is currently under review by the ministry, was unlawful.

“It is obviously absurd that an essential part of our criminal justice system is against the law,” she said.

“Lawyers, victims, those accused, court staff and everyone else involved are now in a state of limbo. It is important, of course, that the ministry considers the decision and assesses its options, but it is vital that the ministry provides clear guidance on what happens next.”

Ms Bulger said while the Law Society had opposed introduction of the fixed fee system, it had also tried to work with the Ministry of Justice to address some of the administrative problems. It remained willing to provide advice and input from the legal profession on the whole issue of legal aid.

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