NEW legislation being hauled before the South Australian parliament could go against all ordinary principles of justice, the state's lawyers say.
The budget decision is expected to save the government almost $3 million a year. The move will deny costs to people who successfully defend a police prosecution and have been slammed by the opposition and many lawyers.
“Big changes earmarked for the South Australian justice system … threaten to undermine the rights of all citizens,” Australian Lawyers Alliance South Australian president, Anthony Kerin said.
The planned changes to the South Australian justice system, due to go before parliament this week, will impinge on the rights of the innocent to be awarded costs when forced to defend themselves, Kerin said. The changes were being put through as an amendment to the Summary Procedure Act 1921.
“These legislative changes, that are part of the budgetary process, are being pushed by economic considerations as the government purports to claw back $2.8 million into its coffers,” Kerin said.
“But one must ask what the real cost would be to justice, in this state, if such an amendment gets through?," he said.
He said he hoped the opposition parties do not allow this to pass through parliament unchallenged.
Opposition leader Isobel Redmond said the Liberal Party is not prepared to accept the change and would move an amendment to undo the government's proposal.
South Australian Law Society president Ralph Bonig said under the present law a magistrate had the discretion to award costs in favour of the successful party.
He said that introducing such a proposal through the budget process without consultation with the legal profession was "outrageous".