find the latest legal job
Senior Associate - Litigation & Dispute Resolution
Category: Litigation and Dispute Resolution | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Come work for a firm ranked in Lawyers Weekly Top 25 Attraction Firms
View details
Associate - Workplace Relations & Safety
Category: Industrial Relations and Employment Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Employer of choice · Strong team culture
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Banking and Finance Law | Location: All Perth WA
· Freelance opportunities through Vario from Pinsent Masons
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Adelaide SA
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Blakes, Clayton Utz, Freehills in pro bono win

Blakes, Clayton Utz, Freehills in pro bono win

After two years' of pro bono legal efforts, law firms Blake Dawson, Clayton Utz and Freehills have seen their work pay off in reforms passed by the NSW Parliament.

AFTER two years’ of pro bono legal efforts, law firms Blake Dawson, Clayton Utz and Freehills have seen their work pay off in reforms passed by the NSW Parliament.

The firms, with the Women’s Legal Services NSW and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, are celebrating after reforms to Sexual Assauly Communication Privilege were passed last week.

The reforms represent the culmination of a two-year pro bono project to protect the rights of victims of sexual assaults during the criminal trial process.

Sexual Assault Communications Privilege (SACP) prevents defendants in criminal trials from being able to trawl through a victim's confidential counselling records, the firms said in a joint statement.

Since February 2009, Blakes, Clayton Utz and Freehills, Women's Legal Services NSW and members of the NSW Bar Association have represented more than 90 victims of sexual assault on a pro bono basis under a SACP Project before the District and Local Courts at the Downing Centre and Parramatta.

The experiences of the Project informed the amendments which have now been made to the Criminal Procedure Act.

The policy behind SACP is to protect the confidentiality of sexual assault counselling, so as to encourage sexual assault victims to seek and stay in counselling, and to make victims feel more confident about being able to report sexual assaults.

The firms said these reforms ensure that the victim is made aware of her or his right to oppose the production of their counselling records in court, and that the court recognises SACP as an essential element in the criminal trial process.

Until last year, most victims had no capacity to enforce those rights before the court.

According to the law firms involved, the project demonstrated that legal representation for victims makes a significant difference in preventing the disclosure of privileged documents. In 91 per cent of cases where documents returned under subpoena contained protected confidences, the complainant was able to assert the Privilege successfully.

A pro bono model is not a long-term solution to providing a comprehensive and sustainable service to the hundreds of victims of sexual assault before NSW Courts each year, the firms said.

Blake Dawson, Clayton Utz, Freehills and Women's Legal Services said they welcome the announcement by the Attorney-General of $4.4 million of funding over 4 years for a specialist victims' advocacy service, which will ensure that victims can receive advice and representation in asserting SACP.

David Hillard, Pro Bono Partner at Clayton Utz said on behalf of the Project partners, "these reforms have been secured through the perfect example of a pro bono project - an identified legal access problem has been tackled collaboratively, reformed through legislation, and with the State now picking up responsibility for future representation of victims.

“Our organisations started this project to highlight why SACP was not working properly, to get those problems fixed, and to ensure that government-funded services were available for victims to assert their rights. It is so pleasing to see collaboration between private lawyers working pro bono, the community legal sector and the DPP, bring real change to this issue".

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Blakes, Clayton Utz, Freehills in pro bono win
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Oct 20 2017
Podcast: One of law’s most infamous alumni – in conversation with Julian Morrow
In this episode of The Lawyers Weekly Show, Melissa Coade is joined by The Chaser’s Julian Morrow....
Oct 20 2017
High Court overturns ‘excessive’ anti-protest legislation
Bob Brown’s recent victory in the High Court over the Tasmanian government was a win for fundament...
Oct 20 2017
Changes to Australian citizenship laws blocked
Attempts to beef up the requirements to obtain Australian citizenship were thwarted this week, after...
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...