New Zealand Law Society - Courtroom Practice

Courtroom Practice

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Criminal fixed fee consultation - Have your say

Criminal legal aid providers will be aware that a fixed fees framework for criminal legal aid was introduced two years ago after a package of changes designed to better manage legal aid expenditure was announced by the government in April 2011.

Under the fixed fee framework for criminal legal aid, fixed fee payments are made for an activity or a group of activities, according to schedules of fixed fees covering each of the criminal legal aid proceedings categories.

In 2011, the Law Society consulted with the legal profession about the proposed fixed fees framework. The feedback received indicated that the legal profession believed the fixed fees proposed were unsustainable. It was of particular concern to the Law Society as the regulator of the profession, that feedback indicated the proposed fees were so low as to potentially put lawyers at risk of breaching professional obligations and prevent them complying with client care obligations.

A new Ministry of Justice review of the criminal fixed fees schedules will be occurring before the end of the year. To assist the Law Society prepare a comprehensive submission on the review, if you are currently doing legal aid criminal work, or have recently ceased doing legal aid work, then we encourage you to complete the Law Society’s survey that will be emailed to criminal legal aid providers on the week beginning 29 September. The survey closes on Friday 17 October 2014.

Liz Bulger, Legal Services Committee Convenor
Jonathan Krebs, Criminal Law Committee Convenor

Outstanding jury trial figures

The current jury trial picture is “the best it has been in recent memory”, Chief District Court Judge Jan-Marie Doogue says.

“You will be aware that for the past two years, the District Courts judiciary has focused on managing our jury trial workload better, particularly in the Auckland region.

“I have received a report on the national jury trial workload as of July 2014,” Judge Doogue says. “In summary:

  • The number of active jury trials on hand is down to 1,693. This is a 25% reduction, or 582 cases less than July 2012.
  • The most significant reduction in jury trial numbers has been in the Auckland metro region.
  • The jury trials on hand are younger compared to July 2012. Currently, 67.2% are aged less than one year, 26.8% are over one year but less than two years, and only 6.1% are aged over two years.
  • New business levels are lower than in July 2012.
  • Almost half of jury trials are disposed of prior to trial.

“The report indicates that the number of active cases and their age is stabilising. I think you will all agree that these are outstanding results, which could not have been achieved without the collaboration of the judiciary, court staff, defence bar and the Crown,” Judge Doogue says.

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