Intervening in interests of access to justice

The High Court has given leave to the Bar Association to intervene in an important case where the eventual outcome will be of significance in the area of legal aid.

Fawcett v Legal Services Commissioner is currently on appeal from a decision of the Legal Aid Tribunal. At issue is whether work administering a legal aid file comes within the definition of “legal services” under the Legal Services Act 2011. This is a critical point because only the provision of legal services can be funded under the legal aid scheme.

“In 2018, the Bar Association’s Working Group into Access to Justice identified non-payment of this type of work as impacting significantly the efficacy of the legal aid scheme,” explains Bar Association President Paul Radich QC. “Therefore, the question before the Court is important in the operation of the justice system and to access to justice. It may impact our members and the general public materially.”

“The Association is passionate in its commitment to increasing access to justice as it impacts in a real way on the rule of law and the overall stability of our society,” said Mr Radich. “The Bar Association adopts a cautious approach to applications to intervene but, as pointed out in the decision of Associate Judge Johnston, the scope of entitlements under the Legal Services Act, and the consequences for access to justice, are of the first importance. We believe we can assist the Court by our involvement.”

Wellington barrister and Council member, Felix Geiringer, appeared for the Bar Association on the application. The Defence Lawyers Association of New Zealand and the Auckland District Law Society have also been given leave to intervene.

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