QLS backs former prominent judge’s call to maintain legal aid funding
3 October 2017
Queensland’s largest lawyer group has backed former Court of Appeal president Margaret McMurdo’s warning that legal aid needed ongoing and sufficient levels of public funding to ensure access to justice for the states most disadvantaged.
Queensland Law Society President Christine Smyth on Tuesday (Oct 3) echoed Ms McMurdo’s concerns regarding legal aid funding – saying Queensland’s most vulnerable residents could be denied access to justice if funding levels were inadequate.
“Ms McMurdo and her board should be congratulated for absorbing the increase in cases and getting the most out of every dollar, but if these trends continue an increase in funding will be essential,” Ms Smyth said.
“The public funding is far worse than it appears as the amount of pro bono work done by Queensland solicitors has masked the extent of the problem.
“Queensland Law Society’s nearly 12 000 members contribute millions of dollars’ worth of free legal advice and representation every year, through internal pro bono programmes and community legal centres; without those efforts the system would be in crisis.”
Ms Smyth said both the state and federal governments needed to commit to a genuine long-term plan to ensure legal aid was adequately funded on an ongoing basis.
“We can’t keep having the situation where we are constantly getting the begging bowl out and doing our best Oliver Twist impersonation; access to justice is a one of the pillars on which viable democracies are built, and adequate legal aid is essential,” Ms Smyth said.
Ms Smyth’s comments follow a news report in which the former COA president, who is now on the board of Legal Aid Queensland, said more legal aid funding could be required if the current trend of increasing numbers of criminal cases continued.
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