Crackdown on legal aid coming

Last updated 19:18 12/04/2011

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The Government will tomorrow announce a proposal to crackdown on the legal aid system and slash its rising costs.

Justice Minister Simon Power has said the legal aid bill had grown substantially, increasing by 61 per cent over the past three years from $111 million to $172m.

He will announce major changes tomorrow morning to bring down costs, including taking control of 50 per cent of criminal cases were legal aid was used, One News reported.

The cases would be handled by state-owned Public Defence Service, which was being trialled in Wellington and Auckland.

Another change would restrict access to legal aid for less serious criminal cases by setting limits based on income. Only single people on less than $22,000 a year and people with children on less than $50,000 a year would be able to get legal aid.

At a forum in February, Mr Power said changes were needed to meet an expected $402m funding gap over the next five years.

He has been driving legal aid reforms following Dame Margaret Bazley's report on the legal aid system, which identified system-wide failings and called for urgent action to rebuild trust and confidence in it.

Last week, Parliament passed the Legal Services Bill, which will fundamentally reform the system.

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- NZPA

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