Legal aid debtors encouraged to contact Ministry of Justice

7 August 2013

People with legal aid debt are being encouraged to contact the Ministry of Justice to update their details and make arrangements for repaying their debt.

Legal Services Commissioner Nigel Fyfe said the Legal Services Amendment Act, which comes into force on 2 September 2013, makes a number of changes to legal aid cases, including the introduction of interest on legal aid debt.

“Due to the income thresholds that apply, most people – 75 percent - don’t have to repay their legal aid debt. However, there are around 50,000 people who are required to pay their legal aid back. The Ministry will be writing to these people to tell them about the changes and how they affect them, and to discuss their options for repayment.”

Mr Fyfe said those who have legal aid debt should know who they are because they are currently making repayments, or they have been contacted by the Ministry about their debt. 

“However, because of the changes the Ministry is going to extra efforts to communicate with people who have legal aid debt.  By giving us a call and checking their details with us we can work with them to arrange repayments in a way that works for them and us.”

No interest will be charged on legal aid debt from when the law comes into effect, on 2 September 2013, until at least 2 March 2014. Interest will then be charged at the government’s capital charge rate, currently 8 percent.

“It’s important to make sure we have the right information so that we can actively engage with people to properly manage their debt repayments,” said Mr Fyfe.

Legal aid lawyers will also be receiving information about what the Act means for them and their clients.

People with legal aid debt can call 0800 600 090 to discuss repayments and set up a repayment plan.