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Life to get harder for those with legal aid debt

Life to get harder for those with legal aid debt

Hundreds of people with legal aid debts going back nearly 15 years will face further hardship when the Government’s new interest charges of 8 per cent a year are imposed from tomorrow (Monday, 10 March), Labour’s Justice spokesperson Andrew Little says.

“Most of these legal aid recipients were on low incomes or had no work when they were granted legal aid. Most remain on low incomes.

“The debts involved range from about $1000 to $30,000, with many owing around $4000. However an extra $250 or so a year is not easy for many people to find.

“Eight per cent is a high interest rate for the Government to impose on people who are already struggling to get by.

“Those who received legal aid for civil matters accepted they had to repay the grant and in many cases it was secured over property transferred to them in settlements, but they were told it wasn't subject to interest.

“I have been contacted by dozens of people who are anxious about the extra cost they will now face.

“I have been assisting people to get waivers of the interest and I advise anyone who finds the new charges are causing them difficulty to apply to have the statutory discretion of the Legal Services Commissioner exercised in their favour.

“Labour in government will review legal aid arrangements to make sure the scheme is meeting its objective of ensuring access to justice for those without adequate means and without creating further hardship,” Andrew Little says.

Ends

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