Further to my recent post about funding, or lack thereof, of Legal Aid in Victoria I stumbled upon a newspaper article today about the situation in New South Wales.
It seems that it is not only Victoria that finds itself with a funding shortage, with New South Wales also finding itself in the same predicament. Last week the board of Legal Aid New South Wales circulated a decision that funding for a large number of cases in Local Court should be ceased. Only where there is "a real possibility of a jail sentence" should a grant of aid be considered.
In NSW 90% of criminal prosecutions are finalised in the Local Court, which gives you an idea of the impact this could have. Accused people facing charges such as shoplifting, assault, resisting arrest and minor drug offences will be forced to represent themselves or find a pro bono lawyer if they can't afford to pay for their own representation. In 2012 7000 people was sentenced to a jail term by NSW Local Courts, meaning that this is a real possibility for accused facing these charges.
t's obvious we don't live in a perfect world, but the legal system has always been a beacon of hope where everyone deserves a fair trial, however it appears this may not be the case anymore.
To read more of the article by Rickard Ackland head to smh.com.au