25 May 2013

Reinstatement of old legal-aid fee system expected

9:15 pm on 25 May 2013

Criminal lawyers say they expect the Ministry of Justice to revert to the old fee system for legal-aid lawyers, now that the Court of Appeal has found some aspects of the new system are illegal.

Fixed fees for legal-aid lawyers were introduced in March 2012. Under the scheme, lawyers are paid a set fee based on the seriousness of the charges against their client, rather than being paid for the amount of work they do on the case.

The Court of Appeal ruled on Friday that the new regime is unlawful because it is inconsistent with the Legal Services Act passed two years ago.

The Criminal Bar Association has been fighting against fixed fees and its president, Tony Bouchier, says the finding is embarrassing for the Government.

Auckland QC Grant Illingworth says the ministry created the mess that now prevails and it must go back to the drawing-board and find a way to comply with the law.