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Mismanagement Of Criminal Appeal Legal Aid Policy

More Mismanagement Of Criminal Appeal Legal Aid Policy

Thursday 1st Feb 2001 Stephen Franks Media Release -- Justice

“The Government has mismanaged more than just procedural aspects of the criminal appeal legal aid issue,” ACT Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks said today. “I have been contacted by lawyers working through what the Legal Services Agency has to do, starting from today, and it seems the policy was not thought out. We could see money wasted on spurious appeals.

"The Agency has nothing in the law to discourage appellants from useless appeals, or their lawyers from promoting them. It can try to deny aid by forming a view on the merits of the appeal. But that means the applicant has to work out the grounds without legal aid. There are obvious attractions in the legal aid purse, supported by the duty to a client, for whom an appeal is a one way bet at no personal cost.

"If the Minister of Justice had thought this through, or consulted with experienced practical lawyers, or even invited Treasury to examine the incentives, he could have easily developed a balanced package.

"Disincentives to useless appeals don’t have to be complicated. For example, an appellant and his lawyer would stop to think if the Courts had the power to rule that the sentence time of an unsuccessful appellant does not start to run until after the appeal.

"The Agency must decide whether legal aid is in ‘the interests of justice’. The principal consideration is now ‘the gravity of the case’. That means 'the worse the criminal, the better his access to the public cheque book'.

"While the Minister of Corrections is pushing dangerous criminals out on home detention to save prison space, and is deferring essential prison maintenance, his government leaves itself open to spending more on criminal appeals.

“And worse is to come. This year we get the government's changes to legal aid eligibility rules. We can expect similar 'non judgmental' largesse for environmental, race, gender, and other complaint litigation. Meanwhile the Police can’t get enough money to chase people we all agree are criminals," Stephen Franks said.

ENDS


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