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Collins’ back-down proof of over-hasty decision

Andrew Little
Justice Spokesperson

21 June 2013

Collins’ back-down proof of over-hasty decision

Another back-down by Judith Collins, this time on legal aid, highlights just how pointless her appeal to the Supreme Court was, although the jury is still out on whether more changes to the scheme go far enough, Labour's Justice spokesperson Andrew Little says.

The government implemented a new scheme of fixed fees for lawyers doing legal aid work in a bid to reduce the country's legal aid bill last year.

“That’s resulted in more than 200 lawyers pulling out of the scheme amid complaints it is too rigid and underpays lawyers for the work they do.

"The Court of Appeal's criticisms of the present scheme were measured and fair. Lodging an appeal the day after the decision, as Ms Collins did, was just plain dumb.

"The Minister should have got to work straight away consulting the Law Society and the Criminal Bar Association on improving the scheme. She didn’t.

"The Appeal Court noted the scheme needed to be more flexible so lawyers dealing with unusually difficult cases could apply for additional payment for extra time.

“It also said the Legal Services Commissioner was required to act independently of Government ministers.

"The new guidelines released today are a start. However, the proof that the Commissioner and the Government have taken on board the court's criticisms will be in how future applications for additional fees are handled.

“On that score, the jury is still out.

"Legal aid remains an essential means for those on low incomes to ensure they have access to legal advice and representation when faced with prosecution or civil claims that fall under the scheme. Anything that undermines that should be a concern.”

ENDS

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