Man waits two weeks in custody without a lawyer
A man waiting for a lawyer to be assigned to him has been in custody for two weeks because of an "administrative error" with his legal aid application.
Nathaniel Graham Bourchier, 24, has been at Christchurch Men's Prison since April 4 after he was initially denied bail on robbery and wilful damage charges.
The Blenheim fisheries worker has called his detention without legal advice "outrageous".
He appeared at the Blenheim District Court on Wednesday on a television screen linked up to a room at the prison.
"What have they been doing, twiddling their thumbs? I shouldn't be here. I could have walked today but I still don't have a lawyer."
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Bourchier was first denied bail by Judge David Ruth because of the "seriousness" of his charges on April 4, the day after he was arrested.
Duty solicitor Philip Watson met with Bourchier that day to help him apply for legal aid, which would get him a lawyer paid for by the Government.
A lawyer would be able to reapply for bail, having collected information about where Bourchier lived, if he could be electronically monitored, whether being in custody could affect his job, and if he was at risk of reoffending while on bail.
But Bourchier was still waiting to hear if his legal aid application was successful.
A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said Bourchier's application was not processed because of an "administrative error".
"The Ministry of Justice has a target of processing 93 per cent of criminal legal aid applications within 24 hours, and apologises that it has not met the expected standard in this case," she said.
Legal aid applications for people appearing at the Blenheim District Court were processed in Christchurch until earlier this year.
Applications are now processed in Wellington.
The spokeswoman said the delay in processing Bourchier's application was not linked to the centralisation of the service in Wellington.
"Legal aid services' change in operating model has not affected its ability to process applications in a timely manner."
Police claim Bourchier took another man's cellphone and some cash in January, and that he damaged a cell toilet at the Blenheim police station on April 3.
Judge Barbara Morris said the legal aid application should have been processed "urgently" given the serious nature of the charges.
"But if they already have an application to act on, I would ask they do that as a matter of urgency."
She understood why Bourchier was concerned about the remand in custody, she said.
There was no way to change Judge Ruth's bail decision, but it could be appealed or a new application could be made when Bourchier had a lawyer, she said.
"All I can do is make sure legal aid is assigned as soon as possible, and give the earliest date possible for a hearing.
"I'm doing what I can to solve this," she told Bourchier.
She remanded him in custody to April 24.
- The Marlborough Express