Hats off to the district court judge who says the legal aid system is becoming a “national disgrace”.
And a pitchfork up the backsides of the secretive buggers who run the legal aid service. Their disinclination to explain themselves and the results of their inquiries into judges’ complaints is unacceptable.
As Alf posts this, Mrs Grumble is drafting an e-mail on the topic to be sent to Justice Minister Simon Power.
It calls for the Minister – splendid fellow – to come down heavily on his smart-arsed bureaucrats. Having Parekura Horomia sit on them for an hour or two would do the trick.
Alf had already been bothered by the costs of the Bain retrial, but his concerns have been heightened on learning –
Judge Graeme Noble became the third judge in Invercargill in the past year to raise concerns over the service after a defendant, who had travelled down from Christchurch, had his case postponed on Wednesday.
The man had been appointed a Dunedin-based lawyer by the Legal Services Agency but she failed to appear.
The legal aid system was obviously not working and was being inadequately administered, Judge Noble said
“This whole Legal Aid business is fast becoming a national disgrace in terms of service to the courts and the public,” he said.
It’s not the first time Dunedin lawyers have been appointed but haven’t turned up.
Last year Judge Dominic Flatley said appointing Dunedin lawyers only to have them fail to show was “hopeless”, and in April, Judge Kevin Phillips ordered a report to be made to Legal Services after a Dunedin-based lawyer failed to appear for his client.
The report needed to make it clear to the agency that the lawyers they were assigning were not meeting their clients’ needs, Judge Phillips said.
Justice Minister Simon Power is looking into the matter (“I’ve asked for a copy of the LSA report to be put on my desk for me to have a look at over the weekend”) and Chief District Court Judge Russell Johnson said the judges’ remarks obviously showed their frustration at the issue.
But it looks suspiciously to Alf as if a few sticks of dynamite will be needed to get much action out of the buggers.
Legal Services Agency senior communications adviser Bronwyn Bannister said the investigation into Judge Phillips’ complaint had been completed and no further action would be taken. Ms Bannister declined comment on details of the investigation or the result.
In April, Legal Services Agency service contracts manager Margaret Pearson said there would be no comment until the investigation was complete, but she was unavailable for comment yesterday.
So it has taken two bloody months to make a simple inquiry, and the LSA is keeping quiet about what it found and what it is doing.
Forget about the pitchforks. Just sack the buggers.