$115m funding boost for justice sector

by Sol Dolor10 Feb 2017

New Zealand’s justice sector will get $115m in extra funding which will go to legal aid, the District Courts system and more judges.

Part of the recently announced $503m Safer Communities package, the extra funds will be disbursed over the next four years, Justice and Courts Minister Amy Adams and Corrections Minister Louise Upton said. The $115m will be channeled through the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Corrections. Justice will get $51m while Corrections will get $64m.

“The additional 880 police and 245 non-sworn staff will help prevent crime occurring and keep New Zealanders safe but, inevitably, it will also add pressure on our courts and prisons. This extra funding will enable Justice and Corrections to support the work being done by Police,” Adams said.

Of the fund to be received by Justice, $16m will go to legal aid to increase access to justice. Meanwhile, $21m is earmarked for the District Courts to boost case-handling capacity while $9m will be spent to appoint more judges. Meanwhile, the $64m Corrections is set to get will be used for rehabilitation and reintegration programs and more staff.

“This investment builds on the National-led Government’s strong focus on preventing and reducing crime, supporting victims through the criminal justice system, and holding offenders to account,” Adams said.

In 2016, the New Zealand Law Society and the Public Service Association announced a joint investigation into reports that courts are understaffed. The Criminal Bar Association also warned that “pitiful” pay is driving lawyers away from legal aid work, further limiting access to justice, especially in rural areas. Lawyers have also rejected Adams’ claim that court delays are not standard across the country. The chair of the Law Society’s Family Law section said that lawyers from across the country tell her that delay is a real concern in all parts of the country.

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