Urgent fix needed for legal aid
Kate Wilkinson MP
National Party Associate Justice Spokeswoman
18 August 2006
Urgent fix needed for legal aid after violence stats
National Party Associate Justice spokeswoman Kate Wilkinson says the shameful domestic violence statistics released this week are a wake up call for Labour.
"Women are withdrawing from the legal process because there simply aren't enough legal aid lawyers prepared to take on their cases. Rick Barker's decision to stretch legal aid even further will leads to even more problems."
Reported family violence occurrences have increased from 31,654 in 1999 to 63,685 in 2005, with arrests increasing from 9,311 to 18,305 over the same period.
"When there's this sort of dramatic rise, a responsible Government makes sure the legal infrastructure's in place to cope with a downstream increase in demand for courts and lawyers. "But as we've heard from Women's Refuge, the situation's so dire in some areas, that women are being forced to represent themselves, and in some cases confront their abusers in court.
"And that's for those women who have the courage to go through the process. Women's Refuge reports that some are just giving up."
Ms Wilkinson says Rick Barker's not giving the area adequate attention.
"Mr Barker's satisfied to leave the failing system the way it is until after a cumbersome 'survey of legal aid' is completed at the end of the year.
"In the meantime, how many abusers will escape justice and how many women will be put in unnecessary danger?" asks Ms Wilkinson.