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Legal aid ruling raises many questions

Legal aid ruling raises many questions

Justice Minister Judith Collins needs to spell out the effect a Court of Appeal decision on the legal aid scheme will have on the cost of that scheme, and what she is going to do to ensure her ministry acts lawfully, Labour’s Justice spokesperson Andrew Little says.

The Court of Appeal has upheld two claims by the Criminal Bar Association that the Legal Services Commissioner, who makes decisions on granting legal aid, had to act independently of the Ministry of Justice and that the present policy on legal aid is too restrictive.

"Ms Collins and her colleagues barged ahead with the present scheme against the reasonable objections of many experienced lawyers. It has now been found to be flawed.

"Far from the ‘better public services’ mantra the government continues to chant, this is just another decision where it has ridden roughshod over principles of good government and basic rights to justice.

"We need to hear from the Minister how she intends to preserve the independence of the Legal Services Commissioner and we need to hear from the Commissioner about how he intends to change the scheme to make it lawful and fair to legal aid claimants.

"This court case largely centred on claims for legal aid for criminal cases, but legal aid is also used for family court cases.

“The family court reforms, which are based on a significant reduction in legal aid, are due to come back to Parliament shortly. We also need to know what impact the decision will have on these reforms.”

ends

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