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Concern over delivery of protection order promises

Kate Wilkinson MP
National Party Associate Justice Spokeswoman

28 July 2006

Concern over delivery of protection order promises

“It’s all very well increasing eligibility to legal aid for protection orders, but we already know there aren’t enough lawyers prepared to do the work,” says National Party Associate Justice spokeswoman Kate Wilkinson.

She is responding to the first report from the Ministerial Taskforce on Family Violence, in which the Government claims ‘access to protection orders by victims will be enhanced’ and that ‘the threshold for eligibility to legal aid for Orders under the Domestic Violence Act will be increased’.

“These are worthy goals, but the reality is we’re already getting reports from Women’s Refuge that the legal aid system is letting women down badly.”

Ms Wilkinson released a letter from the Women’s Refuge in Blenheim this week which outlined how battered women were being forced to represent themselves in court because no one’s available to take on their cases.

“Women’s Refuge says some of these vulnerable women are simply giving up on efforts to secure protection orders or settle domestic disputes because they cannot face the ordeal of fronting a court case themselves.

“When I raised the issue of access to justice with the Labour Government about a month ago, I was told to wait for the completion of a random survey of households on legal aid. The findings, if we can call them that, are not expected until the end of the year.

“The Minister appears to be in complete denial about the immediate and real-life consequences of his tinkering with the system.”

Ms Wilkinson says most New Zealanders would expect any changes to legal aid to be well researched, well planned and efficiently implemented.

“Labour has failed on all three counts,” she says.


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