04 Mar, 2024
1 min read

Hopes legal aid funding review will deliver equal justice

Mark Dreyfus

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has announced a review of the National Legal Assistance Partnership. Photo: Anna Carlisle.

Overburdened legal aid centers across the country will be hoping the latest review of government funding arrangements delivers on their promises to ensure all Australians have equal access to the law.

Don’t hold your breath. Funding is never enough, as any legal aid lawyer will tell you.

Federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus last week announced an independent review of the National Legal Assistance Partnership, a funding agreement between all Australian governments to provide the most vulnerable access to legal assistance for civil matters, such as family law disputes and child protection.

State and territory governments fund most criminal law matters.

A decade or more of chronic underfunding by all governments for legal aid services has recently forced Aboriginal legal aid services in NSW and Queensland to suspend services.

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (NATILS) says demand for legal services has increased by 100 per cent since 2018, but federal government core funding has declined in real terms.

An emergency injection of $21 million in federal government funding in May would “do little more than help keep the lights on”, NATILS said.

“We fully expect service freezes to continue and that means bad outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, including unjust incarceration and separated families,” NATILS chair Karly Warner said.

The ACT Government has just delivered a $2 million boost for community legal services within the budget, including for the NSW/ACT Aboriginal Legal Service, which Ms Warner leads. In the ACT, its services continue.

A longer-term boost to national funding for legal aid services is at least another year away.

The current national funding agreement is due to expire in 2025. Since 2020, it will have delivered $2.4 billion in

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2 mins read

‘It’s essential’: Oklahoma renters facing accusations can now receive free legal help

Free legal help is now available to renters facing eviction in the Sooner State. A nonprofit law firm called Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma is focused on working with residents in the 73111 and 73119 zip codes.

The group says they want to show how early representation can help renters in the most vulnerable areas of Oklahoma City.

It made a difference for Bridgette Williams.

“It put my mind at ease almost immediately,” Williams said. “Because I was terrified.”

Last summer, Williams went from having mold all over her apartment to getting sued by her landlord for not paying rent.

“I was an absolute wreck because I was panicked. They were coming at me for money. I’m about to be homeless. It was bad.”

Luckily, Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma helped get her case dismissed free of charge.

“I can’t talk about them enough,” Williams said. “They were really efficient. They really had my back.”

Williams moved out of the 73111 zip code in northeast OKC, which is where renters facing prosecution can now receive legal help from staff attorneys like Greg Beben without having to spend a single dollar.

“We’re a city with very bad eviction rates,” Beben said. “It’s essential for people in this situation to at least have access to counsel, legal information, advice and representation on what their options are, on how to enforce their rights and how to avoid evictions.”

Beben’s nonprofit is also focusing on tenants in zip code number 73119, which is the southwest part of town.

“Those are zip codes where we’re going to be able to make a big impact because we’re going to inform those tenants of their rights leading up to that point.”

Oklahomans don’t live in those areas that can still access services,

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1 min read

Legal aid to poor jail inmates urged

Rights lawyers have called upon the government to provide more legal assistance to the poor inmates languishing in jails without trial.

They made the call as the country is set to observe the National Legal Aid Day 2023 today.

The government can create a mechanism so that every lawyer could be obliged to represent the poor in the courts, according to the lawyers.

The rights lawyers mentioned that many poor people were languishing in jails without trial after being accused of various crimes.

‘As per the law, every lawyer in developed countries needs to fight a certain number of cases in favor of poor people facing various criminal charges,’ said jurist Shahdeen Malik.

He said that every bar association should introduce such practice so every lawyer must take at least one case to represent the poor facing criminal cases.

Shahdeen said that in foreign countries free legal services were provided mostly to the poor people facing criminal cases.

He added that the citizens’ liberty would be curtailed if they were detained in jail for a long time.

Until April 2023, the National Legal Aid Services Organization provided legal assistance to 3.53 lakh people across the country since 2009, said a release issued by the law ministry on Thursday.

The release said that a total of 82, 588 disputes or cases were disposed of through the out-of-court settlements.

It mentioned that Tk 134.93 crore were realized and distributed to the victims in most dowry-related cases.

Rights lawyer ZI Khan Panna told New Age that donors increased funds to state-owned legal aid service providers as they are getting increased response from poor people.

The government is set to observe the national Legal Aid Day today.

Legal aid panel lawyer at Supreme Court Khurshid Alam Khan said that more skilled lawyers should

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1 min read

More efforts needed to ensure legal aid for the poor

THIS is concerning that poor prisoners suffer greatly in accessing justice. Although the government and some non-governmental organizations have provided legal aid services for a long time, many poor prisoners do not receive legal aid because of a number of issues and complications; and, they keep languishing in prisons without trial. The government in 2000 introduced the Legal Aid Services Act 2000 ‘to provide for legal aid to the litigants who are incapable of seeking justice due to financial insolvency, destitution, helplessness and for various socioeconomic conditions.’ The government later established the National Legal Aid Services Organization, which is reported to have provided legal assistance for 3.53 lakh people since its establishment in 2009. The government has also established legal aid offices in all the 64 districts to offer legal aid and, yet, it has, as legal rights activists say, so far failed to provide legal aid for hundreds of poor inmates. The issues said to be holding back the full implementation of the legal aid law are many. Some of them pertain to the definition and mode of action of the law and the implementing agencies.

The law specifies that people will be eligible for legal aid if their annual income is not above Tk 150,000 in cases of the Supreme Court and Tk 100,000 in cases of other courts. Experts say that this criterion is flawed as there are many prisoners whose income might cross the stipulated mark but they might still be in need of legal aid. Other criteria — people who are physically or mentally handicapped and incapable of earning, unemployed or receiving old-age honorarium, poor women who hold vulnerable group feeding cards, women and children who are victims of trafficking, women and children who are acid victims, members of national minorities, homeless people, any

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1 min read

Justice Canada releases commission report on impact of lack of legal aid in family law disputes

Impacts of limited legal aid

Birnbaum and Bala stressed that the lack of access to family law services and increased self-representation in family proceedings are “growing concerns” in Canada. They found “limited family law funding” as one of the causes of the increasing number of self-represented litigants in family law disputes.

“Increase in self-representation and cuts to legal aid impose significant resource costs on the family justice system, thus negatively impacting the efficiency of the family justice system,” Birnbaum and Bala wrote.

Conclusion

Birnbaum and Bala found that the lack of access to legal aid for family law matters significantly affects women, Indigenous peoples, marginalized groups, and residents of remote and rural communities. Moreover, they found that the effect of the lack of access to legal aid services can lead to serious consequences, such as loss of parenting time, loss of appropriate child and spousal support, and loss of rights to matrimonial property and pensions.

They stressed the need for a “research initiative” in collaboration with researchers, federal, provincial and territorial partners, lawyers, legal organizations, the judiciary, community organizations, and the public to determine the long-term impacts of lack of access to family legal aid and improve the efficiency of legal aid services.

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2 mins read

Defense lawyers threaten job action over Legal Aid Alberta funding

The associations plan to meet on Wednesday night to discuss and vote on next steps, including the withdrawal of their services.  (Cort Sloan/CBC - image credit)

The associations plan to meet on Wednesday night to discuss and vote on next steps, including the withdrawal of their services. (Cort Sloan/CBC – image credit)

Three organizations that represent hundreds of defense lawyers in Alberta are threatening job action if the provincial government does not increase funding for Legal Aid Alberta.

The Criminal Defense Lawyers’ Association of Calgary, the Criminal Trial Lawyers’ Association of Edmonton, and the Southern Alberta Defense Lawyers’ Association of Lethbridge sent letters to Justice Minister Tyler Shandro in mid-July requesting a funding discussion before July 29.

The associations say the government is refusing to properly fund Legal Aid Alberta (LAA), a non-profit organization that provides legal services to Albertans in family, domestic violence, child welfare, immigration and criminal defense cases.

The defense lawyers I Alberta lawyers who take legal aid cases are underpaid compared to those in Manitoba, British Columbia and Ontario and that many have become crown prosecutors to obtain better compensation.

“The most minimal provision of legal aid services in Alberta is at a breaking point,” the groups said in a joint press release Saturday.

The associations plan to meet on Wednesday night to discuss and vote on next steps, including the withdrawal of their services.

Submitted by Danielle Boisvert

Submitted by Danielle Boisvert

Danielle Boisvert, president of the CTLA in Edmonton, said the job action “would have a serious, direct and immediate impact on everybody else in the justice system.”

She said without legal aid lawyers, many more Albertans would try to represent themselves in court, leading to more work for crown prosecutors and judges and increasing the possibility of wrongful convictions.

Pay discrepancies

LAA, which is mainly funded by the province, served more than 34,000 clients last year.

Boisvert said legal aid cases make up about half of most defense lawyers’ workload, but the percentage

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1 min read

WB, Japan support greater access to legal services for the poor in Vietnam | Business

WB, Japan support greater access to legal services for the poor in Vietnam hinh anh 1Illustrated image (Source: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – The World Bank (WB) and the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) on July 26 signed an agreement on the provision of a 2.5 million USD grant from the Japan Social Development Fund to finance a project that will strengthen the delivery of legal aid services to vulnerable groups in the northern part of Vietnam, focusing on Dien Bien and Yen Bai provinces.

The project, Vietnam: Improved Delivery of Legal Aid for the Poor and Vulnerable, will support legal aid services covering criminal law (with a special focus on gender-based violence), marriage and family law, and employment and labor law.

It is estimated that nearly 10,000 people, including ethnic minorities, poor households, survivors of gender-based violence, and people with disabilities, will benefit from the project’s interventions.

The Japan Social Development Fund, which is a partnership between the Government of Japan and the WB, provides grants in support of community-driven development and poverty reduction projects that empower the poorest and most vulnerable groups not reached by other programs and improve their lives through direct benefits./.

VNA

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