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Domestic violence – protection orders

For immediate release 2 November 2007

Domestic violence – protection orders

Statement from Paul Maskell, Chair of the Family Law Section of the New Zealand Law Society, responding to comments made today by Steve Taylor, Director of 24-7 Ltd, about lawyers and protection orders.

“New Zealand family lawyers work hard on behalf of their clients and this includes working towards ensuring or enhancing the safety of clients affected by domestic violence.

“It is unfortunate, therefore, that Steve Taylor of Auckland counselling service, 24-7 Ltd, has misunderstood the role of the lawyer in advising clients about protection orders.

“This is also unfortunate because lawyers and counsellors need to work together to help victims of violence and frequently do work together, co-operating very successfully in this area.

“Lawyers listen carefully to clients who approach them and carry out their duty to advise their clients about their law and the legal options open to them.

“Family lawyers handle applications for protection orders all the time. They are well aware of how vulnerable those applying for them can be and the need for extreme urgency in some cases.

“However, it shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the lawyer's role to say that lawyers should simply act on their clients’ instructions and that it is up to judges to make the decisions about the protection orders.

“Firstly, the lawyer is an officer of the court and has a duty to the court that can override the lawyer’s duty to the client.

“Then there is a duty to advise the client about the law and the likely success or otherwise of any action. So, if a lawyer feels strongly that an application will not be successful, they must advise the client of that.

“The consequences of a failed application also need to be taken into account.

“To suggest that a lawyer is there simply to file a client’s application is wrong. If that were the case, then the client could just go to the court and file it on their own behalf. The lawyer is there to advise the client as to how the law can assist in these situations and that is what we do,” Paul Maskell said.

ENDS

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