ALA joins pressure on governments to lift Vic legal aid funding
14th Aug 2013
The Australian Lawyers Alliance is backing the Law Institute of Victoria and the Victorian Bar Association’s call for the Victorian and federal governments to immediately review funding for legal aid saying more than a decade of inadequate funding has taken a significant toll on Victorians’ ability to access justice.
“The ALA has been lobbying for better funding for legal aid throughout Australia, and particularly in Victoria where it is little more than a lottery, for more than a decade,” ALA National President, Geraldine Collins, said.
“Many of our members regularly see the path of destruction that lack of funding creates with lives totally destroyed by people’s inability to access justice in our courts,” Ms Collins said.
“Some of Victoria’s most vulnerable people, struggling with how to deal with criminal charges or family and civil matters, are finding themselves before the courts and judges are being forced to halt trials out of fear that lack of representation will lead to serious miscarriages of justice,” she said.
“All this just further clogs a court system that is already over characterised by self-represented litigants who lack the financial and intellectual skills to properly represent themselves. And things continue to deteriorate with more aborted trials and appeals likely the longer this crisis goes on.”
Ms Collins said access to justice was a fundamental legal right that should be protected under the Victorian Charter of Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006.
“Yet governments continued to erode this right with tough-on-crime political policies that see more police on the streets making more arrests and putting more people before the courts yet less money being given to represent those Victorians who find themselves in such circumstances,” Ms Collins said.
“And with the federal election looming and a Victorian election slated next year, we can only expect this crisis to reach epic proportions as justice in Victoria becomes a cherry picking exercise of who to represent and how extensively to represent them because of lack of financial support for these vulnerable people,” she said.