Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search


Crown Solicitors' "Honesty System" of Billing in Review

Crown Solicitors' "Honesty System" of Billing & Other Matters Feature in Review of Prosecution Service

LawFuel.co.nz - Law Firm News, Law Jobs - Crown solicitors have been spared the axe by Government after a review of the prosecution services opts for the status quo and criticises the "honesty system" by which Crown Solicitors charge their time.

The review, ordered by the Government to see whether it was getting value for money for a service that is unique in the legal world for being essentially operated by private law firms, reported to Government last month with recommendations for improvements in the way in which Crown Law oversees the service, as well as seeking greater transparency and realism in the billing structures used. It is the second major review of the privately operated Crown prosecution service, after the 1990s review by the Law Commission, which also opted to retain the current system using the Crown solicitors' network.

The report's author, John Spencer, said that although there was not "systemic" there was a clear need to ensure there was neither over-charging, nor under-charging, both of which had occurred with Crown solicitor fees.He also noted that the service was "heavy" in senior prosecutors, which affects costs with a "proportionately greater" billing rate as a result.The 'honesty system' billing is weighted by the seniority of the solicitors charging and the poor management by Crown Law and Government departments who often have no real idea about the costs of prosecution.
Given that prosecution services, including Police and other prosecutions, cost the taxpayer $75 million a year, it’s surprising that the Spencer report received virtually no media coverage.The international trend has been strongly towards centralized, public prosecution.

The Crown Solicitors’ budgets have continued to swell, partly in the face of increased indictments. The Government is intent on cutting the costs of bureaucracy largey through the Criminal Procedure (Reform and Modernisation) Bill, which may have been the Crown Solicitors’ saviour.
It was CPRAM that is set to reduce prosecutions and, logically, prosecution costs. Among the Spencer Report findings:

* A lack of proper management and poor data management by Crown Law
* Unrealistic charge out rates* Weak competition for work
* A lack of control of the Crown solicitors' skills mix
* A renewed focus upon 'cost' as a factor in prosecutions in terms of public interest factors

One of the issues regarding cost factors is the obvious tendency towards the development of monopolies.
"These have the potential to create a situation where the purchaser needs the provider more than the provider needs the purchaser.
This power imbalance can prove costly in the long run," Spencer says in the report.The report pointed out that the Solicitor-General's oversight of summary prosecutions, as distinct from indictable matters, was "very weak" with considerable confusion among enforcement agencies as to the Solicitor General's role.Government’s increased tendency to rely on ‘outside’ legal advice has seen a greatly increased expenditure on advice. The report shows the figure relating to prosecution advice in the 2009-10 year to be $5.5 million.
And many government agencies really have no clue how much prosecutions will cost.

In fact, cost is not a recognized factor in determining whether a prosecution is in the public interest. The report recommends various improvements, such as far better oversight of summary prosecutions by the Solicitor General, better cost controls and data collection, and clearer decision-making among others.

Spencer observed that public interest considerations get shifted from office to office, avoiding the overall public interest. Further, there is a solicitor-client relationship, which alters the context of a true, public interest prosecution service.

Cases may be incentivised to be prolonged due to ongoing fees and the review notes that the lack of financial controls and lax controls generally makes the Crown Solicitors’ largely an “honesty system” in terms of pay. Billing needs to be more “transparent and realistic.”


© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Friday: National Remembrance Service

A National Remembrance Service for the victims of the Christchurch mosques terrorist attack, and all those affected by it, will be held at 10am on Friday 29 March, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced. More>>

Ban On Military Style Semi-Automatics And Assault Rifles
Military style semi-automatics and assault rifles will be banned in New Zealand under stronger new gun laws... Related parts used to convert these guns into MSSAs are also being banned, along with all high-capacity magazines. “An amnesty will be put in place for weapons to be handed in, and Cabinet has directed officials to develop a buyback scheme...All semi-automatic weapons used during the terrorist attack on Friday 15 March will be banned." More>>

RNZ Report: No Mention Of Right-Wing Threat In 10 Years Of GCSB/SIS Docs
There is not one specific mention of the threat posed by white supremacists or right-wing nationalism in 10 years of public documents from the Security Intelligence Service or the GCSB. More>>

For the Latest: Scoop Search - Christchurch

Gordon Campbell: On The School Climate Strike

Locally, the school strike has won a ton of support for bringing climate change to the fore. Yet the strikers don't want mere expressions of support. They want action. More>>


"Grabbed And Struck In The Face": Greens Co-Leader Attacked While Walking To Work

Green Party co-leader James Shaw was the victim of an unprovoked attack when he was walking to work in Wellington. More>>


████████ ████ ███: Latest OIA Statistics Released

The latest statistics cover 110 agencies that collectively completed 18,106 official information requests between July and December 2018, a 16.4% increase on the 15,551 requests for the previous six months. More>>


'Hit And Run' Inquiry: New Legal Action Over Secrecy

The lawyer representing the Afghan villagers in the inquiry into Operation Burnham has launched legal proceedings calling for a judicial review in the investigation. More>>


From Hydro Plan To...: Mokihinui River Land To Join Kahurangi National Park

A total of 64,400 hectares of conservation land in the Mokihinui River catchment on the West Coast north of Westport, including 15 km of riverbed, is being added to Kahurangi National Park. “Adding this area, roughly half the size of Auckland City, to Kahurangi is the largest addition of land to an existing national park in New Zealand’s history,” Eugenie Sage said. More>>





InfoPages News Channels