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Legal Aid funding cuts



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EMBARGOED TO MIDNIGHT SUNDAY 10.11.96

MEDIA RELEASE - LEGAL AID FUNDING CUTS

The Chairman of the Legal Aid Commission of New South Wales, Mr Bruce Knowles, announced today the further cuts facing legal aid services following the Commonwealth Government’s decision to reduce legal aid funding by $12m in New South Wales in the

next year alone.

Mr Knowles said today “The Commission has already taken steps to reduce services from 1 November 1996 and these further measures will be necessary to meet tire $12m shortfall. These steps will considerably reduce legal aid services to at least 14,000 people in New South Wales every year.”

The funding cuts have already forced the Commission to take the following steps from 1 November 1996 to guard against future liabilities:-

• Legal aid in victims' compensation matters is no longer available; • In family law matters a cap has been placed on expenditure of $15,000 for each party where both parties are legally aided; • Legal aid is no longer available for committals; • A cap has been placed on expenditure on any one criminal trial Of $80,000 with an

additional $40,000 for each co-accused; • Legal aid is no longer available for second criminal trials where the first trial resulted in a hung jury;

The further reductions to service delivery that the Commission will take are as follows:-

1. Tenants and Residents of Retirement Villages

Legal aid will no longer be available for tenants and residents of retirement villages for proceedings in the Residential Tenancies Tribunal.

2. Inquests

Legal aid will no longer be available for representation in inquests,

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3 Discrimination

Legal aid will no longer be available for people who claim to have been discriminated against in proceedings in either the Equal Opportunity Tribunal or the Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission whether their claim be on the basis o f race, age, sex or disability.

4. U nfair dism issal

Legal aid will no longer be available for unfair dismissal matters before the Industrial Relations Court of Australia or the Industrial Relations Commission o f NSW.

5 No District Court Appeals

Appeals to the District Court from decisions of the Local Court in Criminal matters will no longer be funded.

6. Appeals to the Court of Criminal Appeal and appeals in criminals cases to the High Court of Australia

Funding o f appeals to these Courts will be further restricted leaving unjustly convicted people languishing in gaol.

7. Cap of $40,000 in Criminal trials with a cap of $15,000 for each co­ accused.

This will mean that some trials will not proceed with the result that some accused may have to be set free.

8. No Supreme Court Bail Applications funded

This will mean that some people may have to remain In gaol who otherwise would have been granted bail as a result of assistance from the Commission.

9. Reduced Fees to Legal Profession

The fees payable to the private legal profession for work done for legally assisted people will be reduced.

Mr Knowles said today: “The Commission regrets these decisions and fully understands the horrific consequences that these measures will have on the civil and criminal justice systems in NSW. The Commission apologises to those people whose lives will be adversely affected but points out that when faced with a funding cut of

18%, hard decisions are unavoidable” .

Contact: Bruce Knowles

Chairman

(02) 9248 4488(w) (02) 9876 6305(h)