Victoria's upcoming budget must deliver adequate funds to legal aid and allow for the expansion of specialist court programs in designated 'hot spots'.
The Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) has this week called upon the Victorian Government to provide more funding for legal aid in next week's budget, claiming that last year's increase in legal aid funding by $49.9 million has failed to flow through to increased legal representation.
"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," said LIV president Caroline Counsel.
According to LIV, the Government's commitment to 1700 more police officers and 940 armed protective service officers for public transport 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.
In addition, LIV has called for the expansion of specialist court programs as well as the introduction of a Justice Impact Test, which would involve an economic assessment of any proposed law's social cost and benefits.
"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," Counsel said.
"We also call on the Government to extend the Neighbourhood Justice Centre model that currently exists in Collingwood to Sunshine, Frankston and Dandenong."