Greens call for Select Committee inquiry into equality of access to justice

The Green Party is asking Parliament’s Justice and Electoral Select Committee to initiate an inquiry into equality of access to justice.

The Green Party is asking Parliament’s Justice and Electoral Select Committee to initiate an inquiry into equality of access to justice.

“Justice Minister Amy Adams has said it is wrong for someone to receive preferential treatment in the courts because they have more money, but that is increasingly what is happening,” Green Party Justice Spokesperson David Clendon said today.

“The National Government’s reforms to legal aid and Family Court processes are resulting in an increasing number of people being unable to access legal representation.

“Last year, a full 30 percent of appeals in the Auckland High Court and 25 percent of the 228 active civil files in the Court of Appeal involved self-represented litigants, most of whom would have no legal training.

“There is a proverb that says ‘A person who is his or her own lawyer has a fool for a client’, yet the legal aid system now leaves these people with no choice but to represent themselves.

“Justice Helen Winkelmann told lawyers last year in her Ethel Benjamin Address ‘Present levels of civil legal aid inevitably mean that many individuals cannot look to the courts to enforce their rights or obtain a remedy for a wrong.’

“Queen’s Counsel Frances Joychild has called the current fixed hours and rates of legal aid ‘appallingly inadequate in the context of the costs of running a legal practice’, and Otago University Dean of Law Mark Henaghan has said the changes the National Government made to Family Court processes have ‘created great costs long term – financially, individually and socially.’

“With critiques such as these from eminent Judges and legal practitioners and academics, it is imperative that Parliament thoroughly investigates the adequacy of access to justice in New Zealand through a Select Committee inquiry,” said Mr Clendon.

David Clendon will be questioning Justice Minister Amy Adams about equality of access to justice in Parliament’s Question Time today.

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