New Zealand Law Society - What are your party’s policies in relation to access to legal aid?

What are your party’s policies in relation to access to legal aid?

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Democrats for Social Credit

Our aim is to reduce the number of people needing legal aid. Our approach to that is covered briefly in our response to question one. Meantime we would raise the income threshold for access to legal aid to $25,000 with corresponding increases to other levels. Fixed fees for lawyers undertaking legal aid work will be reviewed.

Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party

The ALCP do not have a specific policy in relation to legal aid but believe all people should be able to have access to legal aid when there is a need. The ALCP would like to see this also available for community groups dealing with local or national government.

Labour Party

Public access to good legal advice and representation is crucial to having a fair society and maintaining the rule of law. Cost saving measures put in place in the last nine years have made the legal aid process overly complex and unreachable for many that need it. Quite simply, that should never be the case. Equal access to legal assistance is a cornerstone of our justice system.

With this in mind, Labour will be addressing funding issues and the thresholds for access to civil legal aid. Our Justice Manifesto will outline this in further detail.

NZ People’s Party

We don’t have a specific policy addressing legal aid, but if increasing access to and resources of legal aid helps offenders turn their lives around then we would be supportive of increasing its resources.

NZ Outdoors Party

In response to every question we would say we have no experience in these areas and would look to organisations like yours for expert advice should it be needed. We just don’t want to have policy for policy sake not really knowing what the issues are. We do believe in the rule of law and have been most disappointed by the Government’s suggestions of legislating to negate the Ruataniwha Dam High Court decision. The Outdoors Party will be standing a number of candidates and contesting the party vote emphasising our experience and knowledge of the environment.

Internet Party

Currently we do not have any finalised policy documents on legal aid. However, we have in development a plan to install an act regarding Rape Crisis funding. This is because the trauma from a rape crime can be so severe that it can affect workload and the capacity to be able to continue working. From this the programme will be funded in a way that victims will be able to procure an effective lawyer and there is also room in development for an allowance during the first few weeks of post trauma. In essence, we support the need for victims to have effective lawyers in cases but have not investigated and researched how to implement this further.

NZ First

The income and capital eligibility thresholds for legal aid need urgent review to allow a much larger section of the community to get legal aid.

The Opportunities Party

The Opportunities Party is a new party and has no policies specifically on legal aid. We are committed to the right to a fair trial and are concerned that this right may have been compromised by the Government’s 2010-13 legal aid reforms. We note with concern evidence that criminal aid lawyers’ remuneration has reduced by a third since the mid-1990s and that lawyers are exiting this market. We are also concerned that legal aid for civil cases may be underfunded. The Government’s reforms were driven by costs. Justice sector costs have been growing faster than inflation for years.

Overall our criminal justice policy aims to improve the government’s fiscal position by reducing the cost of prisons (now verging on $1 billion a year). It will be easier to find money to support the right to a fair trial if the prison population was smaller. In addition, our economic policy aims to reduce economic inequality and improve the economic outlook so that there are fewer people with “insufficient means” to go to court. Finally, the legal profession has actively responded to this problem by having the government’s policy judicially reviewed and just this year launching Legal Aid Providers Aotearoa.

United Future

We think everyone should be able to access legal aid, we don’t have any policy to change the state of legal aid but are firmly behind its principles.

National Party

We have not announced new policy on legal aid, however in Budget 2016 we announced that we would increase eligibility for civil and family legal aid to improve access for low-income New Zealanders. We remain committed to ensuring that those who need legal aid are able to access it.

Māori Party

The Māori Party believes that everyone has the right to access justice and we support access to legal aid for all those who require it.

We understand there are challenges with the current system and we would review the legal aid system to identify changes to ensure those who require legal aid have appropriate access to it.

ACT Party

Legal aid is a vital service; every Kiwi deserves fair representation to navigate the sometimes complex justice system. By driving criminal justice reforms and simplification of the court system we can tackle the root causes. ACT supports current legal-aid frameworks but understands the challenges these services are facing, legal aid should be at the forefront of a wider conversation on justice reform.

Conservative Party

We do not have a policy to change anything here at present.

Green Party

We are committed to a fair system which upholds the principles of, and access to, justice, equality before the law and natural justice, which helps to build and maintain public confidence in the legal system. We feel it is important that, where possible, people should have a say in who represents them.

We have vigorously opposed the National Government’s cuts to legal aid and their closure of regional legal aid offices as they imperil the right to a fair trial for New Zealanders who are most vulnerable. In Government we would make well-funded, professional and accessible legal aid a priority within our wider efforts on justice reform. This would include reform to enable Māori groups, community organisations and community class actions to be eligible for legal aid funding.

Access to legal aid is a fundamental component of the wider right of access to justice and it should be given the attention it deserves.