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Legal aid eligibility under review


Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Justice
Media Statement

8 May 2003

Legal aid eligibility under review

Legal aid eligibility is being reviewed to ensure that people with genuine need are granted it, Justice Minister Phil Goff announced today.

“The review will consider a number of issues, with a particular emphasis on addressing concerns that the financial threshold for eligibility for legal aid is too low," Mr Goff said.

"It will also look at concerns that too much legal aid money is spent on long or complex cases, and that access to legal aid creates an incentive for people to extend cases unnecessarily, particularly in the Family Court.

"Reviewing the legal aid system is important because it plays a fundamental part in ensuring New Zealanders have access to legal representation in genuine cases of need.

"The legal aid system needs to be understandable. It should also discourage unnecessary litigation, support fiscal responsibility, and ensure that the process of granting aid is efficient and timely.

“As part of the review, the Ministry of Justice has developed preliminary proposals looking at ways of expanding the pool of financially eligible people, how to clarify the merits tests and how to support alternative dispute resolution.

"The ministry has been consulting with government agencies and justice sector groups with a special interest in legal aid over those proposals. It has also produced a discussion document (found at http://www.justice.govt.nz).

"Decisions about reforms to eligibility should be made by the end of the year."

Mr Goff said the review was the second stage of the government's legal aid reforms. The first stage resulted in the Legal Services Agency being established in 2001 to ensure that legal aid was applied consistently and that access to appropriate representation was available when people most need it.

The second stage of the review had been timed to allow the Legal Services Agency to establish itself first.

ENDS

All Phil Goff’s media releases and speeches are posted at www.beehive.govt.nz

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