Legal aid services in WA ‘at crisis point’ without more funding

Posted

October 13, 2017 08:14:52

Legal services for West Australians unable to afford a lawyer may fall well below other states and territories without a funding boost, the Legal Aid Commission has warned.

Legal Aid WA director George Turnbull said his agency’s situation had reached “crisis point” amid what he described as a substantial rise in demand at a time of reduced government funding.

Legal Aid provides representation in court to financially disadvantaged people, as well as advice and assistance to people going through legal processes.

In the agency’s annual report, Mr Turnbull warned that financial pressure meant that the services Legal Aid offered in WA could drop below all other states.

“Unless Legal Aid WA receives a significant improvement in its state funding base, it will be necessary for government to review its expectations for Legal Aid’s role in the justice system,” Mr Turnbull wrote.

“It is likely that any such review would result in Legal Aid WA providing a level of service well below that available to Australians in all other states and territories.

“It will also result in significant flow-on effects in the justice system as a whole.”

Legal Aid has long faced budget pressures, having had to close some metropolitan offices in recent years in order to reduce costs.

It said a 4 per cent hike in the number of applications for aid it received was contributing significantly to the financial pressure it faced, on the back of continued growth in demand in recent years.

A spokesperson for Attorney-General John Quigley said funding for Legal Aid had previously been topped up, when required, and said that would happen again if it was necessary.

“The McGowan Labor Government is committed to supporting the community legal sector to ensure disadvantaged and vulnerable Western Australians have access to legal help,” the spokesperson said.

“If there is insufficient funding for indictable offences during the current financial year, it will be met through supplementary funding as is normally the case.”

Topics:

judges-and-legal-profession,

government-and-politics,

wa



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