A Northern Territory man facing serious assault charges has been denied legal assistance by the local Legal Aid Commission due to “insufficient funds,” in another striking example of Australia’s deepening legal aid funding crisis.
The man’s trial had to be adjourned to enable him to obtain legal representation.
Law Council of Australia President Mr Duncan McConnel said the case was a worrying example that the knock-on effects from the lack of legal aid funding were serious.
“The impact of deferring this matter is significant,” said Mr McConnel.
“Each of the witnesses, including the complainant who says he was seriously assaulted, now has to wait until next year before the matter comes to court. These delays are obviously stressful. “
This case also clearly brings into focus what a false economy it is to cut legal aid funding. The community now bears the wasted cost of preparation by the prosecutor for trial, because the matter will have to be prepared again in 2016. Meanwhile, valuable court time is wasted because it is impossible to list another trial at such short notice.”
Mr McConnel said a fair and efficient justice system demanded well-funded legal aid services.
“If you starve legal aid of funding – as has been the case in Australia since the turn of the century – then you are preventing proper access to justice, clear and simple. Furthermore, you are creating inefficiencies and waste as courts are delayed or inconvenienced by people unable to secure legal representation,” concluded Mr McConnel.