Labour’s broken promises: changes to legal aid
Simon Power MP
National Party Justice & Corrections Spokesman
6 October 2008
Labour’s broken promise No 6 on law and order: changes to legal aid for victims
Prime Minister Helen Clark and Justice Minister Annette king have broken promises they made this year to victims of crime, says National’s Justice & Corrections spokesman, Simon Power.
“In January, the Legal Services Agency sent a letter to the widow of Karl Kuchenbecker, who had been brutally murdered by Graeme Burton, asking her to repay $19,000 granted in legal aid for the inquest into his death.
“Within days, Annette King promised to clarify the law so there was no repeat.
She said: ‘If the legal aid system is producing this sort of result for victims, it has to be changed urgently. I have already spoken to the Secretary for Justice and asked for an urgent report that will examine what changes are needed to ensure that victims are treated in a caring and compassionate way. I am very serious about this. Victims should not be re-victimised under any circumstances.'
“In April, she told the Sensible Sentencing Trust the bill will “ensure that victims of crime … involved in Coronial Inquests and Parole Board hearings will not be subject to financial eligibility tests, or need to repay legal aid grants when they need to be represented by a lawyer’.
“She said it would be introduced in May and passed soon after.
“On May 26, Helen Clark said it seemed ‘outrageous’ that Mr Kuchenbecker’s widow would face such a steep bill, that legislation was ready to be introduced in Parliament ‘very quickly’, and that Annette King ‘said she'd fix it and she has’.
“On August 14, seven months after Karl Kuchenbecker’s widow received that letter and three months after Helen Clark said it was fixed, the Legal Services Amendment Bill No.2 was introduced to Parliament.
“And Labour calls that ‘urgent’.
“But the problem is that the bill is still sitting in the House waiting for its first reading. Despite all Labour’s promises, It’s gone nowhere and victims remain exposed.
“It certainly is not fixed.
“Labour couldn’t even advance the bill under urgency in the last week of Parliament ahead of bills such as the Public Lending Right for NZ Authors Bill.
“Annette king said she was ‘determined that 2008 will be the year in which victims' rights are properly addressed’.
“All she and Helen Clark have done is let down the victims of crime.”