Rural communities are in danger of having less access to justice, the president of the Criminal Bar Association warns, and the culprit is the “pitiful” pay lawyers who choose to do legal aid work receive.
“Nobody's getting rich off legal aid work in Timaru,” Criminal Bar Association president Noel Sainsbury using the rural community as an example, according to a Stuff
“People do it because they feel they've got a social obligation to do it,” the official said.
However, the pay isn’t just there to even just adequately support lawyers who want to do legal aid work.
“Why do it when it's not paid for properly,” Sainsbury said. “The ministry has put its head in the sand.”
According to Stuff, there were 24 lawyers who took legal aid cases in Timaru for the 2015-16 year and on average, they earned just $27,000. With practice fees deducted, these lawyers were not earning much more than minimum wage, the report added.
Back in August, the Law Society found that fewer lawyers are willing to do legal aid work, with the number of lawyers willing to take on civil law cases under legal aid dropping 54% over the past five years.
In family law, the drop was 25% while in criminal law, the decrease was smaller but still marked 12%.
In a telling anecdote, a Christchurch lawyer said then that lawyers would usually get just over $500 per case: $215 plus GST for administration, $75 for the case management memorandum, $180 for a trial which could last for one hour or could last a day and then $100 for sentencing.
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