4 Dec 2009

Put up or shut up, say Manukau lawyers

9:45 pm on 4 December 2009

A group of South Auckland lawyers is demanding that the Justice Minister front up with evidence that Manukau lawyers are gaming the legal aid system, or apologise.

The allegations emerged in a review by Dame Margaret Bazley, which said she had been told that 80% of lawyers at the Manukau District Court were manipulating legal aid.

Criminal lawyer from Manukau and South Auckland Bar executive committee member, Denise Wallwork, is among 17 lawyers who have written an open letter disputing the claim.

Ms Wallwork says Justice Minister Simon Power and Dame Margaret should present evidence of corrupt lawyers to the Serious Fraud Office and police so they can be prosecuted, and if they cannot do so, they should shut up.

"Simon Power should put up or shut up," she says.

Ms Wallwork says the report was incredibly defamatory, and South Auckland Bar members are consulting civil lawyers about options for legal action.

Not my report to apologise for - minister

Another Manukau lawyer, Ted Faleauto, says wild allegations should not be made without backup, and wants an apology from Mr Power and Dame Margaret.

But Mr Power's office says it's not his report to apologise for; and Dame Margaret is making no further comment.

Mr Power says in a written statement that the Government can't ignore what someone who has as much credibility as Dame Margaret says.

He says she has made it clear that much of her evidence was anecdotal because no one was prepared to complain.