What changes is the Government making to the legal aid system?
Earlier this month I announced a comprehensive reform of legal aid services, following on from Dame Margaret Bazley’s report on this area. New Zealand’s new legal aid system will include a new quality assurance framework for legal aid lawyers, improvements to the duty lawyer scheme, and an expansion of the Public Defence Service to Wellington, Christchurch, and Hamilton. I am confident this package of reforms will improve access to justice and help build the public’s confidence in the legal aid system.
What reports has the Minister seen on his recent announcement about changes to the legal aid system?
I have seen a report from the New Zealand Law Society, which has welcomed the streamlining of administration relating to grants of legal aid, and the extension of the Public Defence Service. The president of the Auckland District Law Society has also welcomed the changes, stating “The society supports any efforts to improve access to justice for disadvantaged members of the public unable to afford the services of a lawyer.” I have also seen reports that the Hon Phil Goff and the Hon Lianne Dalziel have described the changes as “useful” and “a good thing”.
Has he met with the members of the Manukau legal profession who had their reputations damaged as a result of Dame Margaret Bazley’s report, as he indicated to the House he would in December last year; if so, has he been reassured of the integrity of the overwhelming majority of those lawyers and their ongoing commitment to report those who are not meeting the high standards required of the Bar?