New fees schedules for criminal legal aid announced today are a welcome step in the right direction, New Zealand Law Society Legal Services Committee convenor Liz Bulger says.
"However, the changes have been a long time coming and lawyers providing criminal legal aid have been seriously struggling with the overall economic viability of legal aid work," Miss Bulger says.
The new schedules are contained in the Legal Services Commissioner's report Criminal Legal Aid: changes to fee schedules – review responses and final decisions.
Miss Bulger says that the review has resulted in an increase of $4.92 million in the fees for criminal legal aid and that is pleasing.
"Criminal legal aid lawyers will be glad that some significant gaps have been addressed. It is good that fees will be introduced or increased where they have not been properly aligned with the new criminal procedure process.
"Unfortunately the changes will be phased in over three years. We had hoped for an immediate introduction and more substantial across-the-board increases, but the new schedules are a good first step."
Miss Bulger says the New Zealand Law Society was able to provide input from around 300 lawyers in its submission to the Legal Services Commissioner on the changes.
Criminal legal aid applications rose by 4.1% to 40,124 in the year to 30 June 2015 and made up 69% of all legal aid applications in that year.
The new fees schedules are available here.