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Dalziel suggests greater role for community law

Dalziel suggests greater role for community law centres

The role of community law centres should be expanded by formalising the pro bono relationship between the legal profession and the community sector, says Labour’s Justice spokesperson Lianne Dalziel.

Speaking last night at the Community Law Centres national hui in Manukau, Lianne Dalziel said enormous pressure was being brought to bear on community law centres “in the wake of the recession, coupled with the Government’s decision to tighten the reins on expenditure and ACC entitlements.”
Lianne Dalziel said the level of fees charged by lawyers in private practice “simply could not be matched by the Government through legal aid or any other means.

“I made a submission to Dame Margaret Bazley’s Legal Aid Review proposing a model that would see community law centres as regional hubs, with citizens advice bureaux as spokes in a network of legal advice and representation.

“The CLCs would use a blend of salaried lawyers they employed themselves, with barristers and solicitors contracted in from the private sector on an ad hoc basis to undertake publicly-funded family court work and to help address cases involving multiple plaintiffs.

“Justice is often about the ‘little guy’ being able to take on the ‘big guy’ when the case has merit. Confidence in the system can be undermined when one side has access to legal aid and the other does not,” Lianne Dalziel said.

“The resolution of civil disputes through the justice system was designed to ensure that people didn’t take matters into their own hands – it was to encourage the peaceful resolution of conflicts. The problem is that legal fees are too high for the average income-earning person to cover even when they are in the right.

“I think it is time that the government stopped even trying to chase these fees as we will end up never being able to satisfy the requirements of the firms that can earn so much more than the government can pay.

“A formalising of the pro bono relationship between the profession and the community sector may be a better alternative and I believe this could work very well, especially given the extensive support provided to community law centres and citizens advice bureaux.”

ENDS

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