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Minister Should Change Legal Aid Policy to Reflect the Law

Minister Should Change Legal Aid Policy to Reflect the Law

The Government should accept the Court of Appeal’s finding that its legal aid changes are unlawful and reverse them, the Green Party said today.

The Criminal Bar Association won its case before the court on Friday with a finding that cuts to legal aid took away the independence of the Legal Services Commissioner. Justice Minister Judith Collins today announced she will appeal the decision.

“The National Government has yet again been found to be breaking the law and its predictable response is to appeal the decision rather than start complying with the law,” Green Party justice spokesperson David Clendon said.

“Should the appeal fail we can expect another rushed law change.

“Given the National Government’s go-to position whenever it’s found to have broken the law is to retrospectively amend it, rather than comply, I expect a bill is being drafted right now to do that.

“New Zealanders are expected to follow the law but this National Government considers itself above the law and has repeatedly made changes that fail to meet legal requirements or human rights obligations.

“Organisations and ordinary New Zealanders should not have to engage in expensive and stressful court action to have their rights upheld, and when they do win they should not have to fear the law will be rewritten.
“While court action continues, legal aid applications should be processed using the previous system. It is nonsense for the Minister to argue they would need to be frozen.

“The Justice Minister Judith Collins needs to ensure legal aid payments are enough so that New Zealanders get fair representation in court. Sadly the more likely result is another law change which means that the Government controls legal aid funding and vulnerable groups like low to middle income earners will struggle to get representation,” Mr Clendon said.

The National Government recently introduced a bill to make previously illegal spying by the Government Communications Security Bureau legal, and another to remove the right of family members caring for disabled children from appealing decisions around payments.

ENDS

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