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Legal aid fixed fees decision appealed

Hon Judith Collins
Minister of Justice

27 May 2013

Legal aid fixed fees decision appealed

Justice Minister Judith Collins says leave to appeal the recent Court of Appeal decision that the process for implementing the fixed fees policy for criminal legal aid payments was unlawful has been filed in the Supreme Court.

“I am pleased the Court of Appeal found the fixed fees policy in itself is not unreasonable and that cutting the spiralling costs of legal aid is a lawful purpose of the Legal Services Act 2011,” Ms Collins says.

“Although the Court found the process of implementing the policy unlawful, and that it unreasonably restricts the Legal Services Commissioner’s discretion, it rejected that the policy is unlawful in any other respect. Previously, the High Court had dismissed the Criminal Bar Association’s arguments.

“The Court of Appeal has reserved its decision on a remedy, and the Criminal Bar Association did not seek one. So, unfortunately pending clarification from the Court, or the outcome of an appeal, we have been left without a clear way forward.

“It is not in the public interest to stop processing legal aid applications – there are approximately 1215 applications per week. So, the Crown has today applied for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court to quash the Court of Appeal’s decision.”

The Crown has also advised the Court of Appeal that it intends to continue with the status quo until a final determination is made.

“We can’t simply freeze legal aid applications and payments pending the outcome of the appeal, and it’s utterly impractical to immediately revert to the previous framework,” Ms Collins says.

ENDS

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