A Public Defenders Office?

Simon Power is reviewing legal aid:

Power said yesterday that he hoped a review of , to be undertaken by Dame Margaret Bazley, would consider the possibility of creating a public defenders office in New Zealand that could handle at least lower-level criminal cases.

Under such a system, lawyers working for the Crown would defend low-income earners or those who could not afford to pay for their own defence.

New Zealand has a Crown prosecutors office, but no such system for defendants. Public defenders are used in many countries, including the United States and Australia.

The Labour government introduced a trial public defenders office at the Manukau District Court last year, which was considered successful. The pilot programme has been extended for another year.

I’m all in favour.

It was unlikely the Government would scrap private legal aid entirely, with payments direct to lawyers still the most likely option for complex cases or murder charges where a Queen’s Counsel could be required.

Power said that while the review was not about cost-cutting, some lawyers were “gaming” the current system with unnecessary appeals and court appearances.

Labour deputy leader Annette King said the party would support a public defenders office.

Great. Make it happen!

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