LAWYERS in Victoria have called on the state government to inject more funding into legal aid as part of next week's State Budget.
The Law Institute of Victoria says the government must deliver to legal aid and other justice initiatives if the Government’s law and order priorities are to be effective.
“We recognise that the Government was elected with a law and order mandate, but this must be matched by appropriate funding for legal defence lawyers and effective diversion programs in the justice system,” LIV president Caroline Counsel said.
Last year, the State Government increased legal aid funding by $49.9 million over two years and $60m over five years, to provide legal representation to disadvantaged Victorians.
But the LIV now says this has failed to flow through to increased legal representation.
The Government has committed to 1700 more police officers and 940 armed PSOs for public transport, and the LIV said this must be matched by increased resources for the justice system.
“If you are going to have a massive increase in the number of people policing laws, there will obviously be increased demands on our courts and legal system’,” Counsel said.
The LIV is calling for an expansion of specialist court programs into other “hot spots”.
“Dandenong’s Drug Court has reduced recidivism by addressing the causes of offending, and we call for it to be expanded to other courts at Sunshine, Frankston and Melbourne Magistrates’ Courts,” she said.
“We also call on the Government to extend the Neighbourhood Justice Centre model that currently exists in Collingwood to Sunshine, Frankston and Dandenong."
The LIV called on the Government to introduce a Justice Impact test, similar to the British model. Under the test there is an economic assessment of any proposed law’s social cost and benefits.
“We urge the Government to look at the cost of its proposed new laws on the court system, the prison population and legal aid funding,” Counsel said.