The judge presiding over a murder trial in the Supreme Court has said he will wait until Monday before ruling on an urgent application by the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) to test the decision not to fund the accused.
In a hearing earlier today (13 February), the LIV intervened in the trial claiming it is at risk due to Victoria Legal Aid’s (VLA) decision not to fund an instructing solicitor for the man accused of murder.
The LIV has argued that it is necessary for an accused to have both a barrister and an instructing solicitor in order to receive a fair trial.
The presiding judge, who can not be named due to a suppression order, will now rule on an application for VLA to fund an instructing solicitor in the trial.
If unsuccessful, LIV will make a bid to stay the case on the basis that there could not possibly be a fair trial.
The LIV has stated that it has become involved in the matter because it believes it is a ‘test case’ regarding an issue that has the potential to affect many other legal aid cases.
LIV president Reynah Tang (pictured) said the case was important because having a solicitor to assist a barrister in a trial is not a luxury but “fundamental to a fair and just outcome”.
The LIV has briefed George Georgiou, senior counsel, and Chris Carr, junior counsel, who have agreed to appear pro bono.
Counsel will be instructed by Sam Norton, co-chair of the LIV criminal law section.
The case is continuing in the Supreme Court.
VLA announced in December that it was introducing wide-ranging changes as it looked to recover from an expected $3 million deficit.
Late last year, the Victorian legal community turned on the state and federal governments over the cuts to legal aid, which included a protest rally by lawyers.