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Access to New Zealand courts not free yet

Access to New Zealand courts not free yet, says Canterbury law school head

July 8, 2014

New Zealanders can be forgiven in thinking that only the rich willingly go to court, University of Canterbury’s Dean of Law Associate Professor Chris Gallavin says.

For many people it may seem that access to the courts is either a grim reality or a necessary result of insufficient funds to hire lawyers, he says.

“The consequence of this is the creation of a belief that justice is unobtainable unless one is wealthy. But it is possible to structure society around free access to the courts. With sufficient political will and a commitment by the legal profession to facilitate such access then free or affordable access to effective dispute resolution processes could be a reality.

“Barriers to justice in New Zealand include lack of money or a perceived power imbalance. While no one model of justice is available to resolve these issues, the development of a flexible and nuanced system could act to alleviate the harsh reality of having a problem with no effective place to have it resolved.”

Associate Professor Gallavin will give a public lecture on court access and legal issues on campus tomorrow (July 9). View a preview video interview here:

He says University of Canterbury law students are each week helping the demand for free legal services at the Christchurch Community Law Centre.

“Canterbury law students are making a major contribution to the wellbeing of our community through servicing more than 20,000 inquiries from the public each year.

“While the great need for free legal help in Christchurch is an indictment on the provision of core services, it also brings great opportunity. Where else in the country are enthusiastic young people presented with the opportunity to really make a difference in their community? Nowhere but Christchurch.”

“I am determined to ensure that we are not just a degree factory. We are here to change the world. We are providing students with experiences and skills that many employers note are lacking in graduates. Christchurch is the place to be in New Zealand over the next 15 to 20 years,” Associate Professor Gallavin says.


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