6 Apr 2011

Legal aid reforms passed into law

7:46 pm on 6 April 2011

Parliament has passed legislation making major changes to the legal aid system.

The Legal Services Bill disestablishes the Legal Services Agency and shifts responsibility for the administration of legal aid to the Secretary for Justice.

The legislation also introduces new competency criteria for legal aid lawyers.

It creates a Legal Services Commission which will be responsible for granting legal aid and ensuring the independence of lawyers in the Public Defence Service.

The cost of legal aid has grown by 61% over the past three years, up to $127 million in the 2009-2010 financial year.

The Justice Minister, Simon Power, says the measures will improve the administration and quality of legal aid services, and ensure the system remains financially sustainable.