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Goff Supports Move To Improve Access To Justice

Justice Minister Phil Goff will support the Law Commission recommendations that contingency fees be given legal status in New Zealand with appropriate safeguards.

Mr Goff has welcomed the Commission's report 'Subsidising Litigation' which outlines the reasons for recognising contingency fees as legal and which he says would improve New Zealanders access to justice.

Contingency fees are an arrangement between a lawyer and a client that the client will not pay for the lawyer's professional services unless the case taken is successful.

"Giving contingency fees legal status would improve the access to justice for those who don't qualify for legal aid but who cannot afford the costs of litigation out of their own pockets.

"This situation covers many middle income earners who may not pursue justice due to financial constraints because they fall just outside the elegibility criteria for legal aid.

"However there will need to be safeguards to avoid abuse of contingency fees. Clients would need to be protected from unfair and unreasonable arrangements. In particular, contingency fees would need to be subject to quite specific disclosure requirements.

"The Law Commission notes cases in which there is no "fund" to win should be excluded from the contingency fee regime. All criminal proceedings, immigration cases and Family Court matters would be expressly excluded.

"Recognising contingency fees as legal would be a move forward and improve access to justice for New Zealanders.

"The Ministry of Justice will prepare a report based on the Commission's views and ultimately a Cabinet paper will be prepared to include the elements relating to contingency fees in the Legal Professions Bill," Mr Goff said.

ENDS

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