A message from President Arthur Moses SC
With the consent of the Premier's office, the President can inform members that in the NSW Budget to be released tonight the Treasurer will announce that in addition to $29.5 million for reforms to encourage early guilty pleas, there will be an additional $10 million in funding for Legal Aid NSW.
The additional $10 million allocated to Legal Aid NSW in relation to the early guilty pleas reforms will be used to fund legal representation fees only. The money will not be used on administration costs of Legal Aid NSW. It follows a meeting between the NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian and the President of the NSW Bar Association, Arthur Moses SC as well as representations subsequently received from the Law Society of NSW. The allocation of these funds to fee rates paid to lawyers undertaking work under the early guilty plea scheme will be finalised once a review of legal aid fees is completed by Legal Aid NSW which is expected to be in August.
The President said: "Whilst I am disappointed that at this stage the entirety of the sum was not specifically set aside for barristers who have not received an increase in their fees for 10 years and who undertake the vast bulk of complicated matters at reduced fee rates, now that we have secured these funds we will work with Legal Aid NSW to ensure that barristers are paid appropriate rates for this work.The success of the early guilty plea scheme to reduce the over 2000 caseload of the District Court will depend on barristers undertaking this work. The current delays and consequential stress this places on victims and witnesses cannot be underestimated.
I am grateful for the additional allocation of funds to Legal Aid NSW and the constructive discussions I have had with the Premier , who understood the difficulties of delays in criminal cases . It was the Premier’s intervention that has resulted in the additional funding to be announced tonight. I did inform the Premier that once the funding of the early guilty pleas was put to one side, the profession needed to have a broader discussion with the Government on the long term funding of a viable legal aid system."