What's new for legal aid lawyers

Criminal Cases Review Commission – update to granting process

16 April 2021 - We have reviewed the way that applications for the Criminal Cases Review Commission are granted and have updated the relevant information as below. These changes will take effect from 19 April 2021.

Changes to the Legal Aid Application questions
On the appeals section of the application form (at questions 29 -30) the application should now record:

  • that the matter is an application to the Commission
  • what the application seeks to address (conviction, sentence or conviction/sentence)
  • the relevant offence
  • the court of right of first appeal against the conviction
  • whether the interests of justice require a grant of legal aid, including:
    • confirmation that the eligible person has fully exercised their rights of appeal against the conviction or sentence
    • any other matter that is relevant.

Confirmation that the eligible person has fully exercised their rights of appeal against the conviction or sentence will usually satisfy the interests of justice assessment.

Changes to the Maximum Grant
If approved, aid will be granted in full and according to the criminal fixed fee schedules G (appeals to the High Court) or H (appeals to the Court of Appeal), depending on the court to which the Commission may refer the case. For applications that would be referred to the High Court the fee of ‘Making an application’ is $1000. For applications that would be referred to the Court of Appeal the fee is $1000 for trial counsel or $1600 for new counsel.

As is current process, if additional funding is required to prepare the application to the Commission, or to assist the applicant through the Commission’s process if it has made a decision to investigate, the provider must submit a request for an amendment to grant in the prescribed manner.

Legal Aid application forms updated due to the Privacy Act 2020

The wording on the legal aid application forms for criminal, family, civil and Waitangi matters has been updated to reflect the new Privacy Act 2020 coming into effect. The only change to the forms is to the wording change from referencing the Privacy Act 1993 to Privacy Act 2020.

Please make sure to submit all future legal aid applications on the updated forms.

Legal Services – Waikato Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Court

In December 2019, the Minister announced the set-up of a new Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment (AODT) Court in the Waikato. The Waikato AODT Court is planned to be operational in mid-June 2021.  The Court builds on the success of the pilot AODT Court in Auckland and Waitākere and aligns to the Chief District Court Judge’s Te Ao Mārama(external link) vision for the District Court.

The Legal Services - Waikato AODT Court [PDF, 298 KB] document provides information on the court, the role of the Defence Lawyer and the approach to support legal services.  We encourage Waikato Defence Lawyers and all legal professionals to read the information and get in touch with us at admin.AODTC@justice.govt.nz if you have any questions or need any additional information.

New addition to travel exceptions list

18 March 2021 - Due to a shortage of available providers, Hawera District Court has been added to the travel exceptions list for providers from New Plymouth and Whanganui for PAL 1 Criminal matters.

This means a provider may be assigned from outside the location where the proceeding is to be held and, subject to the disbursements policy, reasonable travel costs will be approved.

 The list has been updated in the grants handbook.

Update on Legal Aid Services response to COVID-19 (12 March 2021)

12 March 2021– All of New Zealand has now moved to alert level 1. Accordingly, the updates on Legal Aid Services’ response to COVID-19 that have been published on the Ministry’s website since 1 March 2021 will no longer apply. This change will be effective from close of business on 15 March 2021.

This means that unless advised otherwise, legal aid polices on travel disbursements, duty lawyer invoicing, additional fees and signing of legal aid applications for will return to business as usual after 15 March 2021.

We thank you for your assistance and cooperation during this time, in continuing to deliver our essential and priority services.

Update on Legal Aid Services response to COVID-19 (9 March 2021)

9 March 2021 – Auckland is now at Alert Level 2. The rest of Aotearoa New Zealand has returned to Alert Level 1.

Accordingly, the Legal Aid Services updates and policies introduced in response to COVID-19 that have been published on the Ministry's website on 1 March 2021 will no longer apply, except for those in the Auckland region. This change is effective from close of business, 9 March 2021.

For the Auckland region, the following policies still apply:

  • Legal Aid will accept any applications that haven’t been signed by your client. Please sign any forms on their behalf and state the reason for not being able to obtain the signature and note this when submitting the form.
  • Providers who are working from home may claim expenses for travel between home and the Court, a place of detention or a Parole Board hearing venue where:
    • the distance is greater than 50 kilometres, or
    • the return travel time is greater than one hour.
    • This policy will only be available for one claim per day where an in-person appearance is required, and will also apply to Duty Lawyers.
  • Legal Aid will be processing invoices from providers where preparation for a hearing/trial was undertaken and the event was not able to go ahead due to the changes in COVID-19 Alert Levels. These invoices can be submitted as normal and will be paid if appropriate.

Policies on duty lawyer payments and additional fees due to COVID-19 activities will no longer apply from close of business, 9 March 2021.

We thank you for your assistance and cooperation during this time, in continuing to deliver our essential and priority services.

Update on Legal Aid Services response to COVID-19 (1 March 2021)

1/3/2021 - On behalf of Legal Aid Services I would like to update all legal aid providers on our response to last night’s announcement of a return to COVID-19 Alert Level 3 in Auckland and Level 2 nationwide from 6am on 28 February 2021.

Certain changes to Legal Aid policies which previously applied under Alert Level 2 will apply nationwide. This means that:

  • Legal Aid will accept any applications that haven’t been signed by your client. Please sign any forms on their behalf and state the reason for not being able to obtain the signature and note this when submitting the form.
  • Providers who are working from home may claim expenses for travel between home and the Court, a place of detention or a Parole Board hearing venue where:
    • the distance is greater than 50 kilometres, or
    • the return travel time is greater than one hour.
    • This policy will only be available for one claim per day where an in-person appearance is required, and will also apply to Duty Lawyers.
  • Legal Aid will be processing invoices from providers where preparation for a hearing/trial was undertaken and the event was not able to go ahead due to the changes in COVID-19 Alert Levels. These invoices can be submitted as normal and will be paid if appropriate.

The Auckland Region is currently at alert level 3. In response, for those areas where Alert Level 3 applies, we are also re-instating relevant Legal Aid policy and process changes:

  • Additional Fees due to COVID-19 Activities:
    There may be additional services required because of the COVID-19 rules. For example, in family cases we understand you may have assisted with negotiation of care arrangements. In criminal cases, adjournments may have required additional communications with your client, the court and other agencies.

Where additional services have been provided to, or on behalf of your client, because of the lockdown we will approve up to 2 hours at your legal aid rate for the case without needing an amendment to grant.

Your invoice should briefly describe the additional services and reference the COVID-19 lockdown.

  • Duty lawyer Payments:
    When a duty lawyer is rostered to be available for the duty lawyer service, he or she may claim a minimum 2 hours, or the actual hours attended, if that is more than 2 hours.

We also understand that due to some hearings taken place via AVL, duty lawyers may be required to print disclosure or opposed bail paperwork. During this period, we will pay duty lawyers disbursements for printing at the standard rate of $0.10 per page.

We will continue to provide updates via ‘What’s New for Legal Aid Lawyers’. Thank you again for your continued cooperation.

Ngā mihi

Brett Dooley, Legal Services Commissioner

Co-ordinating Counsel for Waitangi Tribunal matters - Clarification

25 February 2021 - Once a Co-ordinating Counsel is designated by the Waitangi Tribunal, providers must contact Legal Aid to advise that they have been nominated to provide coordination and provide the legal aid file they choose to bill the Co-ordinating Counsel work to. It must also be a file that is assigned to the Co-ordinating Counsel as Lead Provider.

Co-ordinating Counsel is required to submit:

  • supporting evidence from the Tribunal confirming names of Co-ordinating Counsel
  • separate amendments to grant and invoices. This is because this work needs to be clearly delineated from any work they undertake as an individual counsel on claimant specific legal aid files.

Please refer to the Granting aid for Waitangi Tribunal matters: Operational policy (page 24-25)

Update on Legal Aid Services response to COVID-19 (22 February 2021)

22 February 2021– Following the Prime Minister’s announcement that Auckland will be moving to Alert Level 1 effective 11:59pm on 22 February 2021, the whole of New Zealand will be in Alert Level 1 from tomorrow. Accordingly, the updates on Legal Aid Services’ response to COVID-19 that have been published on the Ministry’s website since 15 February 2021 will no longer apply. This change will be effective from the 24 February 2021 onwards.

This means that unless advised otherwise, legal aid polices on travel disbursements, duty lawyer invoicing, additional fees and signing of legal aid applications for will return to business as usual from 24 February 2021.

We thank you for your assistance and cooperation during this time, in continuing to deliver our essential and priority services.

Legal Aid granting policy for Employment Relations Authority (ERA) proceedings

Legal Aid funding is available for counsel to complete and file a Statement of Problem, as part of the mediation step of ERA proceedings.

If a party refuses to attend mediation, a provider may claim the ‘Completion and filing of Statement of Problem’ fee if a direction is needed from the ERA that the parties should attend mediation. 

A provider does not need to have a full grant of legal aid to claim this fee, as the ERA requires a Statement of Problem to be filed to issue a direction for the parties to attend mediation.

Update on Legal Aid Services response to COVID-19 (15 February 2021)

15/02/2021 - On behalf of Legal Aid Services I would like to update all legal aid providers on our response to last night’s announcement of a return to COVID-19 Alert Level 3 in Auckland and Level 2 nationwide.

Certain changes to Legal Aid policies which previously applied under Alert Level 2 will apply nationwide. This means that:

  • Legal Aid will accept any applications that haven’t been signed by your client. Please sign any forms on their behalf and state the reason for not being able to obtain the signature and note this when submitting the form.

  • Providers who are working from home may claim expenses for travel between home and the Court, a place of detention or a Parole Board hearing venue where:

    • the distance is greater than 50 kilometres, or

    • the return travel time is greater than one hour.

    • This policy will only be available for one claim per day where an in-person appearance is required, and will also apply to Duty Lawyers.

  • Legal Aid will be processing invoices from providers where preparation for a hearing/trial was undertaken and the event was not able to go ahead due to the changes in COVID-19 Alert Levels. These invoices can be submitted as normal and will be paid if appropriate.

The Auckland Region is currently at alert level 3. In response, for those areas where Alert Level 3 applies, we are also re-instating relevant Legal Aid policy and process changes:

  • Additional Fees due to COVID-19 Activities:
    There may be additional services required because of the COVID-19 rules. For example, in family cases we understand you may have assisted with negotiation of care arrangements. In criminal cases, adjournments may have required additional communications with your client, the court and other agencies.

    Where additional services have been provided to, or on behalf of your client, because of the lockdown we will approve up to 2 hours at your legal aid rate for the case without needing an amendment to grant.

    Your invoice should briefly describe the additional services and reference the COVID-19 lockdown.

  • Duty lawyer Payments:
    When a duty lawyer is rostered to be available for the duty lawyer service, he or she may claim a minimum 2 hours, or the actual hours attended, if that is more than 2 hours.

    We also understand that due to some hearings taken place via AVL, duty lawyers may be required to print disclosure or opposed bail paperwork. During this period, we will pay duty lawyers disbursements for printing at the standard rate of $0.10 per page.

We will continue to provide updates via ‘What’s New for Legal Aid Lawyers’ and thank you for your continued cooperation.

Ngā mihi

Brett Dooley, Legal Services Commissioner

Survey for PDLA lawyers to provide feedback on the nationwide PDLA trial roster

10/02/2021- In 2020 the Ministry of Justice (the Ministry) received feedback indicating there may be opportunity for the Ministry to improve timely access to justice by making it easier for Police to contact Police Detention Legal Assistance (PDLA) lawyers.

In response to the feedback, and to ensure there was timely access to justice throughout the holiday period, the Ministry trialed a change to the PDLA service which ran from 18 December 2020 to 11 January 2021. During this trial, PDLA lawyers were rostered in six-hour shifts on one nationwide roster.

The Ministry is currently running a survey to get feedback on this trial from all PDLA providers. A link to the survey can be found below:

Survey for PDLA lawyers to provide feedback on the holiday period trial roster.(external link)

Legal Aid Services will be reviewing how the administration of the PDLA system can be improved in the longer term this year. Feedback given as part of this survey will help form part of this review.

If you are a PDLA provider, we would encourage you to provide feedback on the trial through the survey. The survey closes at 11:59 pm on 24 February 2020.

Returning Offenders (Management and Information) Act 2015

04/02/2021 - We have reviewed how legal aid may be granted for proceedings under the Returning Offenders (Management and Information) Act 2015 (the Act). We have decided to make a change that will allow providers approved for PAL 2 criminal cases, as well as providers approved for general civil cases to be assigned some civil proceedings under this Act. The application for legal aid will continue to be made on the civil legal aid application form.

Civil proceedings

Someone who is subject to a determination under the Act that they meet the criteria of ‘returning prisoner’ may:

  1. respond to an application to the district court by the Department of Corrections to impose or vary special release conditions
  2. seek a review by the Commissioner of Police of the determination that they are a returning prisoner
  3. seek a judicial review of the determination.

A response to an application to impose or vary special release conditions and an application for Commissioner of Police review of a determination are civil proceedings and a civil legal aid application is required. However, lawyers approved for criminal legal aid may also have appropriate experience for these matters. Accordingly, providers who are approved for PAL2 criminal matters can accept cases where an applicant for legal aid wishes to:

  1. respond to a Department of Corrections’ application to impose or vary special release conditions
  2. seek a Commissioner of Police review of a determination that they are a returning prisoner.

A judicial review of the determination that someone is a returning prisoner would require a civil legal aid application and a provider who is approved for civil legal aid.

Criminal proceedings

A breach of a release condition under the Returning Offenders (Management Information) Act 2015 is an offence that is subject, on conviction, to a maximum term of imprisonment of 1 year or a fine not exceeding $2,000. A criminal legal aid application is required and, if eligible, a criminal legal aid lawyer will be assigned on rotation (RO(MI)A(external link))

Legal aid office

Applications should be sent to the legal aid office according to where the proceeding will be run. Applications for civil proceedings in the District Court in the Auckland and Northland regions should be sent to AKLCivillegalaid@justice.govt.nz. Otherwise to WGNCivillegalaid@justice.govt.nz.

Applications for criminal proceedings in the District Court in the Auckland and Northland regions should be sent to AKLCriminallegalaid@justice.govt.nz for. Otherwise to WGNCriminallegalaid@justice.govt.nz.

We have updated the grants handbook which you can read here.

Paternity cases update

04/02/2021 - To provide further clarification, there have been changes to legal aid policy regarding paternity cases.

See the changes below:

The legal aid application must provide evidence sufficient information of a dispute, that if not resolved, will require Court proceedings. The application must enable an assessment to be made of whether there are reasonable grounds for a party to take or defend a paternity proceeding. It is necessary that the information on the application summarises the dispute in a way which  enables an assessment to be made of whether there are reasonable grounds for a party to take or defend a paternity proceeding.

Such evidence information is likely to include:     

  • The identity of the putative father
  • Whether or not the putative father accepts he had sexual intercourse with the applicant about the time of conception
  • Whether there is any corroborative evidence to establish that the putative father was in a relationship with the applicant about the time of conception
  • Whether or not the putative father agrees to undergo DNA testing
  • Steps the legal aid applicant has taken to contact the putative father and ask these questions
  • Whether an application to the Court may be required…

This is an update to the paternity cases information posted on 22/10/2020 - Paternity Cases.

Temporary closure of Te Kuiti District Court

29/01/2021 - The Ministry of Justice has announced that Te Kuiti District Court is to be closed temporarily while repair work is carried out. The court will be closed from Monday 1 February 2021, and reopen on Monday 1 March 2021. While the court is closed, cases will be transferred to Te Awamutu District Court.

Travel disbursements

Our normal travel policies will continue to apply. Travel costs for legal aid providers who must do additional travel during this  period will be assessed on a case by case basis.

Criminal legal aid applications

When completing criminal legal aid applications, we ask that Duty Lawyers please specify Te Kuiti District Court on relevant application forms rather than the temporary court where the case has been transferred to. This is to enable grants staff to correctly assign providers from the Te Kuiti assignment lists.

Assignment of Cases

Providers on the assignment lists for Te Kuiti District Court will continue to be assigned cases on a rotational basis as per current practice. Please notify us at WGNCriminallegalaid@justice.govt.nz if you are unable to accept a newly assigned case.

Duty Lawyer Service

We will contact duty lawyers directly about any changes to the duty lawyer service roster.

Thank you for your co-operation.

Mileage rate increasing to $0.82 per km for invoices received from 1 February 2021

29/01/2021 – We are updating our mileage rate to align with the IRD rate. The new rate is $0.82 per kilometre for all vehicles.

To allow the new rate to be claimed as soon as possible, it will apply to all legal aid invoices received from 1 February 2021. However, to mitigate unnecessary administrative work, claims received after 1 February 2021 at the old rate can still be processed as claimed.

If you are using the Word template forms, please update the mileage rate. After the new rate has been recorded once, it will remember that going forward.

Wellington Legal Aid office closed Monday 25 January 2021

The Wellington Legal Aid office will be closed on Monday 25 January 2021, for Wellington Anniversary day.

Please send all applications serviced by the Wellington region on this date to WGNCriminallegalaid@justice.govt.nz as usual. Please email all applications as the fax machine will not be accessible during this time.

The Auckland Legal Aid office will process urgent criminal applications for all areas of the country received on this date.

The Contact Centre will remain open from 8am – 5pm. If you have an urgent Legal Aid query on 25 January, you can call 0800 2 LEGAL AID (0800 253 425).

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