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Goff announces Public Legal Aid pilot

Goff announces Public Legal Aid pilot

A public legal service pilot providing criminal legal aid is to be established at the Manukau and Auckland courts, Justice Minister Phil Goff announced today.

“The pilot will see legal aid services delivered by public lawyers alongside private lawyers who contract to the Legal Services Agency. The service will commence early next year," Mr Goff said.

“Currently around 8100 cases are granted legal aid each year at the two courts and up to a third of these cases could be handled by public lawyers. The choice of preferred lawyers will continue to be available to legal aid clients.

“The Legal Services Act 2000 empowers the government to pilot publicly-provided legal aid services.

“Most overseas jurisdictions with legal aid regimes similar to New Zealand’s including Canada, Australia, England and Wales have a mixture of publicly and privately-provided legal aid services.

"Research findings show that generally the best legal aid systems are those where services are provided through mixed systems.

“Having public and private lawyers working alongside each other creates the incentive for each to improve the quality and consistency of representation. From the taxpayers' point of view, it helps to ensure value for money.

“The public practice will be staffed to represent clients in all criminal proceedings from the District Court through to the Court of Appeal, including duty solicitor and Police Detention Legal Assistance Scheme services.

"A comprehensive service will provide career structure and job satisfaction for staff, and expose junior staff to the mentoring, quality assurance and training opportunities that more senior lawyers can provide.

“Independent researchers will be appointed to evaluate the pilot, with evaluation covering a five year period,” Mr Goff said.

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