Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Government Attacks Legal Aid For Citizens But Pays Over A Million To Defend Itself

"The Ministry of Health has spent more than $1 million fighting court action by families who want to be paid for looking after severely disabled relatives.
New figures show the Ministry has spent $1.2 million so far fighting seven families who the High Court has ruled are being discriminated against because they care for relatives.
The Ministry is preparing to appeal against that ruling.
Peter Humphreys, whose 23-year-old daughter has a neuro-genetic disorder, says it is unbelievable that even more taxpayers' money will be used in a Supreme Court hearing.
Health Minister Tony Ryall says the case has significant potential implications beyond the health and disability sector, which would cost far more than the legal bill.
" (Radio New Zealand News 21 April 2011)

This is disgusting. I know of a father who when he turned 65 finally got a pay rise - it was his pension. For the bulk of his adult life he has looked after his two intellectually disabled kids at home. The only difference from other pensioners is that this man cannot retire. When I was at the Masterton A&P show in February I met a couple in their early 30s. They had three autistic children. They were at the start of this lifetime of underpaid service. This couple are on a benefit. Earlier this year John Key said that being on a benefit "was a lifestyle choice". This was no lifestyle choice. This couple are just normal parents who love their kids and want to look after them. It is outrageous that Government after Government have allowed people with disabilities and those parents who look after their disabled children to be consigned to a lifetime of poverty and effective slavery.

This Government has embarked on a hard on law and order crusade. State cash is poured into building new and larger prisons, our right to elect trial by jury is being eroded and thanks to Simon Power you can shortly be tried in your absence. Worse as an accused person you can be penalised for not telling the State what your defence is. Criminal legal aid is attacked, and lawyers who defend accused persons are attacked as being "greedy and bloated". Yet when the Government wants to avoid doing the morally right thing it is okay for them to spend up big with their own legal aid.

We are developing a baked bean conveyer belt justice system where accused people unless they earn less than the minimum wage will not qualify for legal aid. But even if you do, you will not be able to choose your own lawyer. Then we have the new state bureaucracy Public Defence Service ("PDS") - set up to "compete against the independent defence bar." New figures out show the PDS enters guilty pleas at the earliest opportunity at a far greater rate than clients who choose their own lawyers. It was no wonder that most accused persons didn't want to choose to use the PDS.

So the answer to this was for the Government to force you to use them by removing your right to choose your lawyer. The hypocritical thing about legal aid is that it is a loan. When you are granted legal aid unless you are destitute, a caveat is placed against your house. If you needed a loan to build that house you chose your builder - the bank didn't assign you one from the Public Builders Service. Yet now because you need a loan to defend something far more important - your liberty you can't choose your lawyer.

It is disgusting how the Government is eroding our rights and freedoms and is compelling kiwis to use the state PDS which has a track record of pleading guilty to the state's charges sooner than independent lawyers. It is even more disgusting seeing this Government attacking legal aid for citizens yet being happy to spend over $1 million dollars defending themselves from doing what most kiwis believe is morally right.


  1. Hi Michael, Thanks for that. Has legal aid always been regarded as a loan? Or is this something new?

  2. The requirement to repay your legal aid costs has been around for years. Historically it has been more common in civil matters though. From memory for around 3 years clients facing criminal charges have often had to repay their legal aid bill. This is common place now - unless you are unemployed or some other form of benefit.