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ADLS President Responds To Bazley Allegations

Auckland ADLS President Responds To Bazley Allegations Re Legal Aid "Rorts"

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Honest and hard-working criminal legal aid barristers practising in Manukau Court must be demoralised by Dame Margaret Bazley’s report on legal aid, says Anna Fitzgibbon, President of ADLS Inc.

“The ensuing news media focus ignores the fact that the majority of lawyers are competent and dedicated - undertaking work which is invaluable.” However, the conduct of a minority of lawyers representing disadvantaged clients and allegedly “rorting” the legal aid system was unacceptable, said Ms Fitzgibbon. Commenting on the recently released legal aid report by Dame Margaret Bazely, Ms Fitzgibbon noted that the report stated that “a small but significant core of lawyers was bringing their profession into disrepute”.

“It would seem a very few reportedly unscrupulous lawyers are tarnishing the reputation of all lawyers in New Zealand who number almost 11,000,” said Ms Fitzgibbon.

“Reportedly up to 200 lawyers, (a figure which is not accepted) are incompetent or corrupt. Those few lawyers should be investigated and disciplined by the New Zealand law Society which is charged with enforcing the professional standards of members of the profession.

Ms Fitzgibbon said that, while news media interest had highlighted the poor conduct of a few members of the profession, the core issue to emerge from Dame Margaret Bazley’s report was the failings within the legal aid system itself
and how that system could be improved so that members of society who could least afford it, could gain access to justice.

“Most lawyers have undertaken unpaid legal work at some time in their careers - be it volunteering as a legal advisor at the local Citizen’s Advice Bureau, School Board of Trustees, Community Trust or sporting organisation,” said Ms Fitzgibbon.

“It should be appreciated that such lawyers have been responsible for setting up, supporting and funding voluntarily community law centres, duty solicitor schemes and of course by undertaking legal aid work at low rates of pay which have not been increased for over a decade,” she said.

ends

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