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Goff Creates New Legal Aid Industry

ACT Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks said today it was hypocritical of Phil Goff to rail about an Auckland family running up a $1.1 million legal aid bill when proposals in Mr Goff's Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill will lead to substantial increases in legal aid fees.

"Clause 21A, titled Proof of Facts, in the Bill, effectively gives defendants' lawyers a whole new range of opportunities to stretch out court hearings after a verdict has been delivered. They can argue new evidence that has not been presented to the jury and they can raise all kinds of personal information about the defendant that could mitigate against a longer sentence.

"This clause was included in the Bill despite the fact that the Law Society unselfishly told the Select Committee that this new code of criminals' rights would lead to a vast expansion in the time taken for sentencing at trials and would provide a great new industry for legally-aided lawyers.

"ACT urged that the new code include provisions to at least balance the new rights with some disincentives to abusing the process at sentencing hearings and dragging out the trial. But the Government has done nothing.

"This new sentencing hearing industry will also add to the misery of victims as they are called to run over again their losses and their humiliation - even where the prosecution has been considerate enough to avoid forcing them through that before conviction.

"Mr Goff has set us up for a massive expansion in criminal legal aid - despite the lawyers being public-spirited enough to warn that this could happen. There can be no word other than hypocrisy to describe Mr Goff's statement about the Tukuafu family," Stephen Franks said.


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