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Improving access to justice

13 June 2006

Improving access to justice focus of legal aid survey

A nationwide survey on access to legal services, which is currently underway, will ultimately help improve public access to justice, Minister of Justice Mark Burton said today.

The survey, which is being conducted on behalf of the Legal Services Agency, will help define the extent and impact of unmet legal needs.

"When completed the survey will provide us with a comprehensive picture of who seeks legal advice, what for and where from. The survey will also identify barriers to legal information and outcomes for people who do not access legal services.

"In May I outlined the five pillars that underpin this Government's goals for the justice sector. One of these pillars is improving public access to justice.

"By quantifying the number of people with a legal problem who cannot afford a lawyer or cannot access services, we can address any gaps in the system. This survey will allow the Legal Services Agency to develop better targeted regional and national strategies to help people access justice," Mark Burton said.

More than 7000 households randomly chosen throughout the country will be called over the course of the survey and people will be asked about the types of legal problems they may have had, what services they used, and if they did not access legal services why not.

The Legal Services Agency has contracted independent companies TNS New Zealand Ltd to conduct the interviews and Ignite Research to manage the survey and analyse the results. A final report on New Zealanders' unmet legal needs and access to services will be published at the end of the year.

In March the Legal Services Amendment Bill, which will increase the number of people eligible for legal aid from 765,000 to some 1.2 million, passed its final reading in Parliament. It is anticipated that the implementation of the bill will be completed in early 2007.

ENDS

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