New Zealand Law Society - Public Defence Service Centres get $13 million investment

Public Defence Service Centres get $13 million investment

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Public Defence Service Centres are to be enhanced by a $13 million cash injection from the 2016/17 Budget.

The centres are crucial to ensuring people facing criminal charges receive high-quality legal representation.

But Ms Adams says no decision has been made yet on whether more Public Defence Service centres will be opened.

"When we set up the offices we have, we set a view that they would take up to 50% of the work in the centres where they're situated. At the moment, their resourcing doesn't allow them to take anywhere near the threshold we've set so it's not changing the parameters of the share of work they could take but its making sure that those offices are first of all well-resourced to deal with the work that's coming through," she says.

Ms Adams says the cash injection is about the current services being able to sustain their share of work but also be able to attract and retain good staff.

"I think the public defenders service has been an incredibly successful initiative. I'm a huge supporter of it. I think it's a fantastic training ground for young lawyers; I wish that when I'd been a young lawyer there had been these opportunities to do criminal defence work as a career and receive training from senior lawyers."

But she says for that to work the sector needs to be able to attract and retain more senior lawyers and the extra funding is a reflection of the value of the service.

Is it difficult getting more senior lawyers?

"Talking annecdotally to public defenders offices, it's always hard. Anyone in the profession will know that recruiting first and second year lawyers is not so bad but when you're starting to look for third, fourth and fifth year lawyers it's a competitive market and we have to make sure that we offer a work environment that is not so pressured that it's not an attractive place to work," she says.

Ms Adams says people who work in the Public Defence Service are generally there because they're passionate about the work they're doing, and they like training young lawyers.

The total budget boost to the Justice sector is valued at $208 million, which includes a $96 million investment into legal aid and community law centres.

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