Govt 'bowed to pressure' on legal aid
Wed, 10 Oct 2012 5:26a.m.
The Government has wound back proposed changes to the legal aid system because of pressure from judges and lawyers, Labour says.
Justice Minister Judith Collins announced on Tuesday she was taking "a more moderate approach" to proposals drafted by her predecessor Simon Power.
Mr Power wanted to cut the cost of legal aid by introducing a $100 "user charge" for civil and family cases and tightening the financial means test for less serious criminal cases.
Ms Collins has reduced the charge to $50 and scrapped changes to means testing.
She says Family Court reforms have allowed her to do that, but Labour's justice spokesman Charles Chauvel says Mr Power's proposals "were never going to fly".
"It's good that Judith Collins has bowed to pressure from judges, lawyers and other users of the court system to modify the worst of the proposals," he said.
Another change announced by Ms Collins means legal aid debts will begin accruing after six months, not immediately.
The Legal Assistance (Sustainability) Amendment Bill will be changed before it is passed by Parliament.
Mr Chauvel says the justice system is still in crisis.
"The current backlog of some 900 jury trials in the Auckland and Manukau courts can mean a two-year wait for a trial - that puts victims and others in an intolerable position."
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