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Wed 13th April 2011

Legal Aid Reform

Filed under: General — nzleagle @ 6:42 pm

YES!!! the government has listened to the people….

I say that because alot of what has been said about the legal aid reforms, is very similar to what I proposed in my submission to the Legal Aid Reforms.

As mentioned here: http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/govt-unveils-legal-aid-changes-set-save-138m-over-four-years-ne-90653

The changes seem to be very good for those who can not receive Legal aid currently, as the other party wont be able to receive as much, by the looks of it, there will be a cap of $650, unless they can prove its going to be an expensive case, hopefully, this will encourage more mutual agreements, rather than having to deal with the other parties lawyer all the time, and there will be no more “Ill have to check with my lawyer” replies when requesting something outside of an agreement or order.

It looks like there will also be a User charge where the first $100 will have to be paid by the person on legal aid before the legal aid kicks in, reducing the amount of people who will initiate court proceedings though lawyers.

The only thing I can see that isn’t good is the protection orders and cases involving violence will still be with unlimited legal aid, which will probably end up with more accusations of violence, and child abuse to enable the other party to revieve legal aid. Only time will tell…

Also Lawyers for child will only be appointed if necessary, taking another part of the bottle neck out of the equation. The less lawyers involved in cases with our children, the faster things will take to happen. The more that get involved, the larger the bottle neck.

22 Responses to “Legal Aid Reform”

  1. Julie says:

    there will be a cap of $650, unless they can prove its going to be an expensive case

    I wonder how CYF cases will be handled. Having a specialist give evidence can costs more than $650.

  2. nzleagle says:

    I don’t think it includes court ordered reports… and if a CYFS report is needed, then its probably a case that has violence, or protection issues, which dont come with the $650 cap, which leaves open abuse of the system by starting procedings with bringing violence up, which will then allow the case to go over $650.

    It is also only Lawyers bills, I dont believe Legal aid covers actual court costs, unless the lawyer pays for it, then you are just reimbursing the lawyer, I dont think many lawyers will be paying for court costs if they dont know they will get the money back.

  3. Julie says:

    Thanks. Good on you for making a submission.

  4. nzleagle says:

    Here is my submission

    To Legal Services Select Committee
    I would like to make a submission regarding legal aid for Family
    Court Cases.
    Having Read the bill, I noted there is nothing specific for Family
    Court Cases, I do understand that it comes under civil cases, however
    due to the nature of the Family court, I believe it should be
    specified as its own area, covering the issues brought up below.
    A lot of Family court cases go on for years, with a large number of
    applications for additional Legal Aid Support, and due to the nature
    of Day to Day care, and Contact applications, generally the party
    that has day to day care will be on legal aid as they are likely to
    be on the DPB, and the other party is unlikely to be able to get
    Legal Aid due to working and collecting an income.
    Because legal aid is so readily available for the party that has day
    to day care of the child, it makes it very difficult for any
    negotiation for contact of the child, as in mine, and others
    experiences, anything you suggest, the other party consults their
    lawyers about it, rather than working together as parents to make a
    decision. This results in high legal aid bills, and no results, so
    the case ends back up in court, increasing the legal aid bill again.
    I am not sure what the solution to this could be, maybe limiting
    family court legal aid to investigation, preparation and preparation
    of documents and hearings, or limiting the entire legal aid allowance
    to a certain value, or certain time. All I know is legal aid is a
    problem in the family court, not only for cost, but also to help the
    parties reach agreements.
    Another issue I have come across is not been able to notify the Legal
    Services Agency Anonymously of persons that are ripping the system
    off, eg now in a relationship, increase in income etc. When I found
    out that my ex was in a relationship, and working but still receiving
    full legal Aid, I sent a letter to the Legal Services agency, giving
    them details, I then received a letter back asking me to fill out a
    form giving them permission to release my details to my ex’s lawyer,
    and If I did not release my details, then they would not be able to
    investigate. If Work and Income can investigate allegations made
    anonymously, then surely Legal services agency can to

  5. Julie says:

    Nice one.

    I can’t see how a case costs $650 though. What could you get for that?

  6. nzleagle says:

    In my experience with the family court, I had a lawyer for about 6 months, and in those 6 months, we had a mediation, and he spent a bit of time when Christmas contact fell though trying to sort it all out, as well as other contact between me, my ex’s lawyer, and lawyer for child, and that came to under $500, and from what I have heard the biggest cost is normally the small details, a day here, a day there, if both parties are actually paying for there is going to be less communication with lawyers, and probably only going to get to a mediation at the most, unless of course there is violence or protection issues involved.

  7. tren (Christchurch) says:

    Domestic violence is taboo. Domestic violence is business.

    They know current Family Court intervention procedures is to family destruction incarnated, de-fathered kids, who most, end up in youth courts, assaulting police etc. They are well aware of the little monster they are producing because of the forced exclusion of fathers from their homes but.. hold your breath they will not write it down and talk about it.

    Children need meaningful, natural relationship with their dads.

    DVA through Family Court is simply producing more violence, worn out communities and bankrupted state treasury.

  8. I also wonder how CYF cases will be handled. I think it is a big question to many people who can read this blog.

  9. julie says:

    The Government has agreed to pay $351,575 compensation to Aaron Farmer for wrongful rape conviction and imprisonment. Government press release. (I’m researching for assignment and slightly get offtrack)

  10. julie says:

    The words used in this press release are, “innocent of the offense beyond reasonable doubt”. What a massive turn around.

  11. Darryl X says:

    Julie – That literal expression concerns me. “Innocent of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt” implies that the defense needs to prove his innocense instead of the prosecution needing to prove his guilt. He was innocent until proven guilty already (or at least he is supposed to be, which is the big problem today, as most men are guilty until proven innocent) and there was no proof of his guilt – how did he get convicted. I dunno but something doesn’t rattle right there.

  12. julie says:

    DarrylX, I think they need to change the dictionary definition for ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.

    One writes,

    Reasonable doubt is required in criminal proceedings under the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In in re winship, 397 U.S. 358, 90 S. Ct. 1068, 25 L. Ed. 2d 368 (1970), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the highest standard of proof is grounded on “a fundamental value determination of our society that it is far worse to convict an innocent man than to let a guilty man go free.”

    Somehow, there’s no constitution.

    Poor Aaron Farmer. I hope the prisoners are awake to lots of men in prison for false rape charges because I’d hate to think they’re raping all the innocent men under their own punishment rules.

    I had a friend who spent 4 months in jail because he’s wife told police he assaulted her with a knife. He wasn’t in the house at the time it supposedly taken place but she didn’t care. She was denied through citizenship through immigration so went through the women’s refuge. He was fortunate a lawyer meet him in there and took pity.

  13. Skeptik says:

    Thank you for posting this link Julie.
    I’ve just read some excerpts from the Government press release and I must say doing so the hair on the back of my neck stood up!

    A couple of statements from the press release I find very alarming –

    Being able to establish innocence on the balance of probabilities is a minimum requirement, consistent with the Cabinet guidelines. There are stricter criteria for claims that fall outside the Cabinet guidelines, which include an applicant being able to establish their unequivocal innocence (i.e. innocence proved to the higher standard of beyond reasonable doubt).

    AND

    Yes. In Mr Farmer’s case, he has been able to prove his innocence to the higher standard of beyond reasonable doubt.

    That’s a complete 180 degree turn around from conventional law where a person is only imprisoned if they are proven guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. Not have to prove themselves innocent beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s draconian!

    Then’s there’s this –

    Does the payment mean that the Government accepts some legal liability in relation to Mr Farmer’s conviction and imprisonment?

    No. A compensation payment is made in the absence of any legal obligation. There is no legal right to compensation for wrongful conviction and imprisonment. Cabinet’s decision to make a payment in this case recognises that, while Mr Farmer has no legal remedies, it is still appropriate in the circumstances to compensate him for the wrong he has suffered.

    What bullshit political doublespeak!
    It’s the Government (Department of Justice) that appoints the judges in the first place!
    So of course the government is responsible to some extent! Duh!

    Then another troubling aspect of this is there’s ABSOLUTELY NO MENTION MADE OF THE FALSELY ACCUSING WOMAN who claimed to have been raped.
    Is she being brought before a court of law to be prosecuted for perjury?
    If she isn’t, then I’m afraid the message being given to NZ women is it’s OK for you to lie and wreck men’s lives. We’ll all just look the other way and pretend like nothing is happening.

  14. julie says:

    Skeptic, I don’t have time to do this – as does no-one else. But, I get how bad things are out there when working with CYF cases. The whole community’s gone mad.

    What I’m finding is that people don’t know allot of things or they haven’t given it enough thought. Soooo, I have emailed all MPs and hope others might do the same. I love your comment and used most of it as well as part of what DarrylX wrote.

    Here’s a link with all MPs email address. It’s best to send 8 separate emails with just the party’s list of MPs either as To: or BCC. I believe they can tell when you BCC (from past experience). They don’t like it when you write the same email to them and their opposition at the same time and may not reply when you do.

    I opened 8 tabs, made one email and copy/pasted into other 7, then copy/pasted each party’s list into BCC, then sent. It didn’t take much effort at all.

  15. Hans Laven says:

    To be fair, the proof of “innocence beyond reasonable doubt” was not the official standard in convicting and punishing this man, only the standard required for him to receive financial compensation for wrongful imprisonment. There are many reasons why a conviction and sentence might be overturned; the justice system might do its role quite correctly and legally but make a finding based on an unreliable witness (as occurred in Aaron Farmer’s case). Perhaps, regardless of a defendant’s actual guilt or innocence, if the justice system can be proven to have behaved illegally then compensation should be paid.

    However, it is true that the “guilty unless you prove your innocence” policy has been creeping increasingly into our law. Family law has been operating that policy for decades, resulting in many children’s lives being seriously damaged through long, unnecessary separations from a parent (usually a father). The copyright law (aimed at preventing people from obtaining music, films etc through internet file-sharing networks) passed this week by parliament is another example.

    Also, I agree that deliberately false allegations and perjury should be prosecuted routinely and punished severely, whereas at present the likelihood of consequences for such dishonesty is almost zero especially if you don’t have a penis. However, in the Aaron Farmer case the complainant simply made an error in recognizing him in a line-up, and it would be highly unfair (and a threat to anyone’s participation in a justice process) to punish people for innocent mistakes.

    Her mistake does raise the sticky issue of memory fallibility. Research over the last 25 years showing how unreliable and manipulable memory is presents a fundamental challenge to longstanding principles and operation of justice systems. Our Courts appear to be largely avoiding this issue but sooner or later it will need to be addressed. The Aaron Farmer case is one of many good reasons to address it.

  16. Skeptik says:

    Hans,
    you say –

    To be fair, the proof of ‘innocence beyond reasonable doubt’ was not the official standard in convicting and punishing this man, only the standard required for him to receive financial compensation for wrongful imprisonment.

    My point is that innocence beyond a reasonable doubt should not be the criteria set for exoneration.
    It should be not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
    There’s a world of difference.
    The former puts the onus, wrongly in my view, on the entrapped prisoner.
    The latter places the onus on the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt guilt exists.
    Without such proof under common law going all the way back to the Magna Carta the entrapped person should walk free.
    So when I see the government making a statement that a man must prove his innocence beyond a reasonable doubt I see us living in an authoritarian and horribly Orwellian state.
    I’d love to return to NZ one day to enjoy the kind of life, liberty and human rights any reasonable man should expect to have to live a life of quiet dignity.
    However, with such a vast slew of anti male law and conventions(reproductive, relational, education and health, legal system)already in place and now this in addition such a move is far from appealing.

  17. Hans Laven says:

    I don’t think Mr Farmer had to prove anything beyond reasonable doubt to be exonerated. As I understand it, he was released by the Court of Appeal when it found that his conviction did not meet the “beyond reasonable doubt” standard. The Appeal Court ordered a retrial, but the Crown used a new genetic test on the forensic evidence and found the DNA wasn’t his. This, and the fact that the complainant was unwilling to give evidence at a new trial, led to Mr Farmer being discharged without any new trial. Then a QC was appointed to assess whether he qualified for compensation, and this was what required his innocence to be proven beyond reasonable doubt. It seems that the QC’s opinion on this was taken as good enough, and Mr Farmer received compensation. Quick compensation also helps the government to avoid too much consideration by the public of the fallibility of our justice system.

  18. Wayne says:

    Mr Farmer apparently had an alibi who placed him elsewhere at the time of the alleged rape. The Police were aware of this alibi. Mr Farmer’s lawyer was also aware of this alibi. Yet the jury never heard that evidence.

  19. Hans Laven says:

    So it seemed, Wayne, and that may be one of the things the government doesn’t want us to consider for long. Perhaps part of a witchhunt mentality and a reduction in fair justice when it comes to a male accused.

  20. julie says:

    Thanks Hans. I should wait for conversations to finalise before taking something to heart. Oh well, it will be interesting to hear what politicians write back.

  21. julie says:

    I hear Mr Farmer was Autistic.

  22. Scott B says:

    All this will do is raise the domestic violence stats. Feminists will be most pleased!

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