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Ministry of Justice to begin distributing Christchurch mental health rosters

24/11/2022 - Beginning December 2022, Ministry of Justice will be creating the mental health roster for Christchurch.

Beginning December 2022, Ministry of Justice will be creating the mental health roster for Christchurch.

24/11/2022 – Starting December 2022, Ministry of Justice (the Ministry) will create the roster for Christchurch mental health cases. The allocation of mental health cases will continue to be completed by Christchurch District Inspectors. The Ministry already creates the mental health roster for both Auckland and Wellington.

The roster will continue to operate on a weekly basis, however it will now be updated every four months. The roster will be published directly on the Ministry website to ensure that the rosters are accessible and readily available for both providers and District Inspectors. A separate contact list will be emailed to all Christchurch mental health providers and District Inspectors every four months as the roster is re-published.

To ensure an accurate roster and confirm availability, an email will be sent to all providers approximately five weeks prior to the expiry of the published roster with a link to a survey to complete. The survey will ask for their current contact details, and their availability for the next roster period. Providers will be given one week to complete the survey advising what week(s) they will be unavailable. If providers do not complete the survey, it will be assumed that they are available for the entire roster period. If a provider completes the survey and advises they are unavailable for a week they are scheduled, it will be swapped with another provider. Once the roster is finalised, if a provider is unavailable for their rostered week, they have authority to find their own replacement.

Should you have any questions about the roster, please email duty.lawyer@justice.govt.nz.

Police Detention Legal Assistance (PDLA) provider roster and guidelines for the holiday period

24/11/2022 - Police Detention Legal Assistance (PDLA) provider roster and guidelines for the holiday period.

The nationwide PDLA roster for the period of 16 December 2022 to 9 January 2023 has now been finalised. A copy of the roster can be found on our website’s roster page below:

Duty lawyers | New Zealand Ministry of Justice

You will be able to find on the page Police Detention Legal Assistance | New Zealand Ministry of Justice:

  • PDLA nationwide holiday roster guidelines
  • Information on the Regional contact lists of PDLA providers
  • Invoice forms for the PDLA service during the holiday roster period

The nationwide PDLA roster for the period of 16 December 2022 to 9 January 2023 has now been published.

The published PDLA nationwide holiday roster can be found at Duty lawyers | New Zealand Ministry of Justice:

Further information can be found at Police Detention Legal Assistance | New Zealand Ministry of Justice including:

  • PDLA nationwide holiday roster guidelines
    If you are rostered onto the PDLA service over the holiday period, please make sure you have read these guidelines before the nationwide roster period starts on 16 December 2022.
  • The regional contact list of PDLA providers
  • Invoice form for the PDLA service during the holiday roster period 

Please note that if you have been assigned to a roster you must be available to take calls for the full duration of your rostered shift.

If you become unavailable for one of your rostered shifts you must contact duty.lawyer@justice.govt.nz as soon as possible so a replacement can be organised.

If you have any questions these can be sent to duty.lawyer@justice.govt.nz.

Cut-off date for invoices

24/11/2022 - Please ensure to submit all invoices by 2 December so that payment is made prior to the holiday season.

As we approach the end of the year, Legal Aid would like to ensure that it processes all provider invoices as seamlessly as possible. Please ensure that you submit all invoices as early as possible prior to the Christmas break to avoid disappointment.

Friday 2 December will be the cut-off date for submitting invoices for payment prior to the holiday season. We will endeavour to pay the invoices received by the cut-off date prior to the Christmas shutdown. Invoices received after this date, may be processed and paid this year, but we are unable to guarantee this.

Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.

Legal aid invoice payment delays

21/11/2022 - Financial system upgrades are complete and invoice payments can now be made 

The update to the financial system the Ministry of Justice uses to pay invoices is now complete. 

Any invoice payments that were delayed because of the system outage caused by the update can now be made.

These will be paid as soon as possible.

We apologise for any convenience caused. 

Reminder - Hearing and waiting time back pay

17/11/2022 - As you will be aware, Legal Aid Services are back paying the difference between the hearing and waiting time rates paid and the new rates, where hearing and waiting time was completed between 1 July and 2 October 2022. If you were owed backpay you  should have received an email on 7 November 2022 with an attached spreadsheet, asking you to confirm the amount you are due to be back paid and return the spreadsheet to legalaidbackpay@justice.govt.nz.

We have staff dedicated to processing these payments as a priority. If you can return this spreadsheet to us by 18 November 2022, we will endeavour to action these payments by Christmas. Any spreadsheet returned after this date may not be actioned until the new year.

If you have any questions regarding this process, please email them through to lsc@justice.govt.nz.

Reminder - Christmas and New Year availability

17/11/2022 - Criminal Case Assignments

The end of the year is fast approaching, and we will presume that you are available for the entire festive season unless you tell us otherwise!

If you have leave planned over the holidays, please let us know if you:

  • will be away for more than 5 working days
  • are unavailable between Xmas and the New Year (28-30 December inclusive)
  • are unavailable between 4-6 January 2023 inclusive

This will ensure that you don’t get disturbed unnecessarily during your break and allows us to identify any areas where provider coverage may be limited.

Please confirm your unavailability dates by email to legalaidprovider@justice.govt.nz no later than Monday 28th November 2022.

Reminder - legal aid invoice payment delays

10/11/2022 - The financial system the Ministry of Justice uses to pay invoices will be updated from 15 – 21 November.

There will be a delay in legal aid invoice payments during this time.

These payments will be made as soon as possible once the updated system is online.

We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Legal aid invoice payment delays

03/11/2022 - From 15 – 21 November, the Ministry of Justice will be updating the financial system used to pay invoices for legal aid providers.

As a result, there will be a delay in invoice payments as the payment runs on 16 and 18 November will not be taking place. 

The delayed payments will be made as soon as possible once the updated system is online.

During this outage, Legal Aid Services will still be able to assess any invoices received.

We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Christmas and New Year availability

27/10/2022 - Criminal Case Assignments

The end of the year is fast approaching, and we will presume that you are available for the entire festive season unless you tell us otherwise!

If you have leave planned over the holidays, please let us know if you:

  • will be away for more than 5 working days
  • are unavailable between Xmas and the New Year (28-30 December inclusive)
  • are unavailable between 4-6 January 2023 inclusive

This will ensure that you don’t get disturbed unnecessarily during your break and allows us to identify any areas where provider coverage may be limited.

Please confirm your unavailability dates by email to  legalaidprovider@justice.govt.nz no later than Monday 28th November 2022.

Criminal legal aid assignments published

13/10/2022 - The Ministry of Justice has published information on criminal legal aid assignments for the period 1 July 2021 – 30 June 2022.

The assignment reports show all criminal legal aid assignments made for the period. It includes preferred, reassignments and rotational assignments. This report should not be used to compare rotational assignments between providers.

You can view the report on the page Criminal legal aid assignments - information & criminal case reports.

Implementation of a nationwide PDLA roster over the holiday period

13/10/2022 - Since 2020, Legal Aid Services (LAS) have implemented a temporary nationwide roster for the Police Detention Legal Assistance (PDLA) service over the Christmas/New Year holiday period. This was implemented to provide timely access to justice throughout this period where it may be more difficult to facilitate PDLA contact due to leave and unavailability.

Historically there has been positive feedback on the use of the roster over the Christmas/New Year period.

This year, LAS intends to implement a nationwide roster from 16 December 2022 to 9 January 2023. This will run in a similar manner to the previous years, with PDLA lawyers being paid a flat hourly rate to deliver the service during rostered shifts.

LAS is running a survey aimed to give PDLA providers the opportunity to indicate whether they would like to be included on this year’s roster. Providers who are interested will be given the opportunity to indicate what dates they would be available to be rostered on by completing the survey below:
https://consultations.justice.govt.nz/nsd/0da13402(external link)

All legal aid providers with PDLA approval, regardless of their PAL, will have the opportunity to be included in the upcoming roster. Further details on how the roster will operate are included in the survey above.

The survey will close on 10/11/2022. PDLA providers who do not complete the survey by this date will be unable to be included on the holiday period roster.

If you have any further questions about this, please contact RostersDL@justice.govt.nz.

Criminal Process Improvement Programme – Christchurch District Court

06/10/2022 - Bail and the Admin Stage/Duty Lawyer Scope

The Criminal Process Improvement Programme (CPIP), led by the Chief District Court Judge, Judge Heemi Taumaunu, is a justice-sector-wide effort to improve access to justice by establishing best practice in court processes, leading to more meaningful court events and less delay. CPIP’s improvements will also support the judiciary’s Te Ao Mārama vision for the court.

Workstreams 1 & 2 focus on reducing unnecessary delays in the bail process and the admin stage of the criminal prosecution process.  A pilot of changes to the duty lawyer policy, some changes to legal aid policies, and other changes in the criminal jurisdiction process is ongoing at Hamilton and Hutt Valley District Courts and will begin at Christchurch District Court on 3 October 2022.

The pilots will continue until a full evaluation has been completed. If the changes are successful, they may be implemented at other courts. You can read more about the changes here: Criminal Process Improvement Programme (CPIP) | New Zealand Ministry of Justice

Updated Legal Aid Outcomes of Budget 2022

29/09/2022 – As part of the Budget 2022 for Legal Aid Services (LAS), a 12 percent increase to hourly rates was confirmed, which came into effect 1 July 2022. LAS are pleased to advise that this increase will also apply to the series of fees available for hearing and wating time in the fixed fees schedules across all jurisdictions These increases will take effect on Monday 3 October 2022 but will apply to all waiting and hearing time claims from 1 July 2022.

Word Template Package
The Word template package has now been updated to reflect both the increased provider hourly rates and hearing and waiting time rates. As of 1 October 2022, this can be downloaded from the Ministry website: Download Word Template Package

This means the current workaround process required for submitting invoices using the Word template package is no longer required from 1 October 2022. If you are submitting an invoice that covers a period starting before 1 July 2022, please continue to split the hours completed before and after the hourly rate increase and include a date range. This will allow LAS to determine the correct rate to be paid.

Grant Schedules
As part of this release, the way hearing and waiting time is currently displayed in family and civil grant schedules will also change. The hearing time rate will no longer be displayed in the grant schedule and will be replaced by the word ‘actual’. The ‘total paid’ column will reflect a running total of the approved for hearing and waiting time on the grant.

The fixed fee schedules will also be updated with the increased rates and will be available on the Ministry of Justice website: Proceeding steps & fixed fee schedules

Back Pay
While we were unable to implement this any earlier, we will be back paying the difference between the rates paid and the new rates. Invoices received and paid for, where hearing and waiting time was completed between 1 July 2022 and 2 October 2022, will be processed for payment.

These payments will be treated as a priority

Further Updates
LAS policies, including the grants handbook for providers, will be updated prior to these changes coming into effect.

Please find below a letter from Tracey Baguley, Legal Services Commissioner, which provides further detail on these changes:

Letter from the Legal Services Commissioner – Hearing and Waiting Time Rates [PDF, 214 KB]

Any further updates on these changes will be shared via What's new for legal aid lawyers.

Thank you for your patience and cooperation.

Hearings scheduled for 26 September will be rescheduled due to public holiday

14/09/2022 - The Government has announced that a public holiday will be observed on 26 September 2022 to mark the passing of Queen Elizabeth II.

All court and tribunal events previously scheduled for 26 September 2022 will be rescheduled.

The court or tribunal will be in contact to advise you of the new hearing date and time.

Legal Aid do not currently have any information regarding new hearing date and time.

COVID-19 Protection Framework traffic light system – Update (13/09/2022)

13/09/2022 - As you will be aware, from 11:59pm on 12 September 2022, the COVID-19 protection framework and traffic light system is no longer in place. Therefor the following policies will no longer apply:

  • Legal Aid will no longer process invoices from providers where preparation for a hearing/trial was undertaken and the event was not able to go ahead. If this does occur in the future, an ATG will be required for legal aid to consider this.
  • The two hour minimum payment for duty lawyers can no longer be claimed and providers can no longer claim additional fees of up to 2 hours for liaising with clients, without an ATG.

However, the following policy will continue as it is applicable in multiple scenarios:

  • Legal Aid will continue to accept applications that have not been signed by your client, provided you sign the application and note the reason they are not able to sign it. For example – client in isolation, custody or remote participation.

Changes to legal aid eligibility for Protection of Personal and Property Rights applications

01/09/2022 - From 1 September 2022, the Legal Aid Services (LAS) policy towards granting legal aid for applications under the Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act 1988 (PPPR) is updating.

Legal aid will be available for PPPR applications under the ‘public interest’ test provided under s (10)(6)(e) of the Legal Services Act 2011, provided the applicant meets all the other eligibility criteria. 

Legal aid will only be available for applications appointing an enduring power of attorney that require a hearing before the Family Court.

Reminder - tell us what you think about communication assistance and interpreters

15/08/2022 - Kia ora

Thank you to those who have already given us feedback on the communication assistance and interpreter services – the responses to date have been really useful.

The survey will close on 18 August 2022 and is available here(external link).

If you have been involved in a case that used communication assistance or interpreters in the past 12 months, please take 5 minutes to complete the survey.

Thank you for your assistance.

New Legal Aid Provider Grants Handbook

11/08/2022 -  A revised and updated version of the Grants Handbook manual for legal aid providers is now available on the MOJ website: Grants handbook | New Zealand Ministry of Justice

The handbook has been updated to remove outdated information and to make minor edits to wording. There are no procedural or material changes to the handbook.

The grants handbook contains legal aid policies and procedures on:

  • applications
  • eligible applicants and proceedings
  • reassignments
  • invoicing/claims
  • debt management
  • reconsideration/reviews
  • disbursements
  • specific instructions on various areas of law.

Clarification of the election of jury trial process

04/08/2022 - An item posted 26/5/2022 notified you about changes to the election of jury trial process. The change meant a case could be upgraded to PAL2 when the Crown had assumed responsibility for the prosecution.

This change is rolled back, and further consultation will be undertaken. A case may be upgraded to PAL2 and Schedule D will apply when a defendant elects jury trial. Schedules B or C apply before the election.

The grants handbook has been updated to reflect this here: https://www.justice.govt.nz/about/lawyers-and-service-providers/legal-aid-lawyers/legal-aid-provider-manuals/grants-handbook/.

Where the assigned provider is not approved for cases requiring a PAL2 provider, the provider may apply for a limited approval to continue representing the client by contacting. You can find the application form for approval and step-by-step guide on the Ministry website here: Become a legal aid lawyer | New Zealand Ministry of Justice

Tell us what you think about communication assistance and interpreters

21/07/2022 - We are seeking your feedback on two important court services:

  1. Communication assistance
  2. Interpreters

The Ministry of Justice is running a short survey with the judiciary and legal professionals to get feedback on the communication assistance and interpreter services. We will use the information from the survey to monitor the quality of the service and inform ongoing improvement.

The survey will take less than 5 minutes to complete and is available here: https://consultations.justice.govt.nz/csi/67c30f1a(external link)

(external link)Thank you in advance – your assistance is much appreciated. The survey will be open until 18 August 2022.

New audit methodology for Legal Aid Providers (Feedback)

14/07/2022 - We are seeking your feedback on a draft new methodology for legal aid provider full audits by 19 July 2022.

Please see the Ministry’s website(external link) for the draft documents and feedback form.

The proposed new audit methodology is a part of the Ministry’s ongoing project to improve the legal aid provider experience. We are building on the work we have already done to streamline processes for becoming a legal aid provider, better manage complaints, and conduct limited audits.

Compared to our current audit process, the updated methodology allows for:

  • the auditors and legal aid providers to discuss the selected cases and the approach taken when providing legal aid representation
  • a greater focus on the quality of legal aid representation
  • auditors to interview other stakeholders (such as lawyers being supervised by the provider) and observe the legal aid provider working with clients
  • the Ministry to make recommendations for improvement and/ or require that the provider undertakes corrective actions within a set timeframe where this is warranted.

Further updates on these changes will be shared via What’s New for Legal Aid Lawyers in due course.

New audit methodology for Legal Aid Providers

As part of the Ministry’s ongoing project to improve the legal aid provider experience, we are building on the work we have already done to streamline processes for becoming a legal aid provider, better manage complaints, and conduct limited audits.

The next stage of this work focuses on a new methodology for full audits of legal aid providers and we invite you to comment on the proposed new methodology to ensure the audit methodology is fit for purpose. 

Compared to our current audit process, the updated methodology allows for:

    • the auditors and legal aid providers to discuss the selected cases and the approach taken when providing legal aid representation
    • a greater focus on the quality of legal aid representation
    • auditors to interview other stakeholders (such as lawyers being supervised by the provider) and observe the legal aid provider working with clients
    • the Ministry to make recommendations for improvement and/ or require that the provider undertakes corrective actions within a set timeframe where this is warranted.

The draft full audit methodology and associated policy and draft audit report template are now available on the Ministry’s website(external link) for your consideration and feedback. The consultation process will run over a two-week period from 5 July until 19 July 2022.

Further updates on these changes will be shared via What’s New for Legal Aid Lawyers in due course. 

Increase in hourly rates

30/6/2022 - As part of the Budget 2022 for Legal Aid Services (LAS), non-fixed fee hourly rates for providers will increase from 1 July 2022. To ensure that invoices are paid promptly and at the correct rate, a change will be required for submitting invoices during this transition period.

If you have completed work on a grant before and after the rate change, you may choose to:

1. Submit one invoice with all hours completed at the new rate. To determine the appropriate rate, LAS require you to split your completed hours from before and after the rate change and specify the date range after the activity listed.

If you are using the Word template package, this will generate a higher total  than you would expect to be paid. LAS will accept these invoices and assess the correct total amount, with the work prior to 1 July 2022, calculated at the previous rate.

More information on how to change the hourly rate in the Word template package can be found here [PDF, 172 KB].

 2. Alternatively, if it would better suit your business, you can submit two invoices, one with work prior to 1 July 2022, and the other for work effective from 1 July 2022.

This process will only be required for invoices which cover a time period before and after the rate change. The Word template package will be updated later in the year to reflect all changes resulting from the Budget 2022.

Thank you for your patience and cooperation.

Hourly rates are changing on 1 July 2022

23/6/2022 - Per the letter below from Tracey Baguley, Legal Services Commissioner, the hourly rates are changing on 1 July 2022. We're currently working through what this means for invoicing and Word packages and we will provide further instruction next week.

Letter from the Legal Services Commissioner - Legal Aid Outcomes of Budget 2022 [PDF, 144 KB]

Mileage rate increasing to $0.83 per km for invoices received from 1 July 2022

23/6/2022 – We are updating our mileage rate to align with the IRD rate. The new rate is $0.83 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 July 2022. However, to mitigate unnecessary administrative work, claims received after 1 July 2022 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.

Changes to Civil Legal aid for Warrant of commitment proceedings

10/6/2022 - Legal aid granting policy on assignment, prospects of success and the maximum grant for Civil Warrant of Commitment (WOC) proceedings has been updated.

Assignment
A provider must hold a lead provider civil general listing to receive an assignment for a WOC proceeding.  A lawyer can apply for a limited civil approval for WOC matters.  The provider will need to contact Legal Aid Providers at legalaidprovider@justice.govt.nz.

Prospects of success
For any subsequent WOC hearings, the participant does not need to demonstrate there is a change in circumstances since the first hearing. If the participant was not successful in defending the first application this bears no relevance to the prospects of success assessment for subsequent applications. The prospects of success assessment for each application is assessed on a case by case basis.

Funding for defending the first WOC application
The guideline hours for the first WOC hearing has increased from three (3) hours to an initial grant of ten (10) hours for preparation plus actual hearing time.

The provider can seek more than the standard 10 hours via the application form or Amendment to Grant (ATG).  Any request will be considered on a case by case basis. 

Funding for subsequent WOC applications
The guideline hours for any subsequent WOC hearing is three (3) hours for preparation.

The provider can seek more than the standard three hours via the Amendment to Grant (ATG).  Any request will be considered on a case by case basis. 

Outcome of Budget 2022 for Legal Aid

As part of Budget 2022 the Government has made an investment which will ensure continued access to justice by significantly strengthening the legal aid scheme. An investment of $148.7 million over the next four years will allow for changes to be made to legal aid settings regarding eligibility and repayments, and legal aid lawyer remuneration.

This investment will:

• Provide a one-off 12% increase to the hourly rates for legal aid lawyers. The increased hourly rates will only be available for grants of legal aid made after 1 July 2022, and for work completed after this date on legal aid cases granted prior to 1 July 2022.
• Increase the legal aid eligibility thresholds by 15% from 1 January 2023.
• Increase the debt repayment thresholds by 16.5% from 1 January 2023.
• Provide yearly 1.9% increases to both the eligibility and repayment thresholds for the next three years.
• Remove the $50 user charge on civil and family legal aid cases and remove the interest charge on legal aid debt from 1 January 2023.

Please find below a letter from Tracey Baguley, Legal Services Commissioner, which provides further detail on these changes:

Letter from the Legal Services Commissioner - Legal Aid Outcomes of Budget 2022 [PDF, 144 KB]

Legal Aid Services’ policies, including the grants handbook for providers will be updated prior to these changes coming into effect.

Further updates on these changes will be shared via What’s New for Legal Aid Lawyers in due course.

Criminal Process Improvement Programme – Hutt Valley District Court

The Criminal Process Improvement Programme (CPIP), led by the Chief District Court Judge, Judge Heemi Taumaunu, is a justice-sector-wide effort to improve access to justice by establishing best practice in court processes, leading to more meaningful court events and less delay. CPIP will also support the judiciary’s Te Ao Mārama vision for the court.

Workstreams 1 & 2 focus on reducing unnecessary delays in the bail process and the admin stage of the criminal prosecution process. A pilot of changes to the duty lawyer policy, some changes to legal aid policies, and other changes in the criminal jurisdiction process is ongoing at Hamilton District Court and will begin at Hutt Valley District Court on 13 June 2022. Based on the experience at Hamilton to date, some additional changes, including to payment amounts will apply at both sites from 13 June.

The pilots will continue for 3 – 6 months. There will be robust monitoring during the pilot and a full evaluation at their conclusion. If the changes are successful, they may be implemented at other courts. You can read more about the changes here.

Clarification of the election of jury trial process

26/5/2022 - If a client in a PAL1 case elects trial by jury and the Crown assumes responsibility for the prosecution, a provider may request that the grant be updated to reflect the election. The case remains a Police prosecution and the relevant PAL1 schedule applies until then. The case may be upgraded to PAL2 when the Crown has assumed responsibility.

The grants handbook has been updated to reflect this here.

Where the assigned provider is not approved for cases requiring a PAL2 provider, the provider may apply for a limited approval to continue representing the client by contacting legalaidprovider@justice.govt.nz. You can find the application form for approval and step-by-step guide on the Ministry website here: Become a legal aid lawyer | New Zealand Ministry of Justice

COVID-19 Protection Framework traffic light system – Update to item

21/04/2022 – Please be advised that the below item of 19/04/2022 has been updated to include the 2 hour payments for duty lawyers, as these may still be claimed at the Orange traffic light setting.

We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

COVID-19 Protection Framework traffic light system – Update (19/4/2022)

19/04/2022 - As you will be aware, all regions of Aotearoa/New Zealand moved to the Orange traffic light at 11:59pm on 13/04/2022.

As a reminder, for all regions at Orange the following policies will 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.

·        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 when a duty lawyer is rostered to be avaliable for the duty lawyer service, he or she may claim a minimum of 2 hours, or the actual hours attended, if that is more than 2 hours. 

Thank you again for your continued cooperation.

Web2text system is currently experiencing issues receiving text message replies

11/4/2022 - The Ministry’s Web2text system is currently experiencing intermittent issues receiving replies to text messages. If you do not have a response from Legal Aid services after responding to a text message, please call 0800 2 LEGAL AID (0800 253 425).

Free Communication Assistance Forum for lawyers – 13 April 2022

07/4/2022 – Communication assistance is a key tool to help court participants who have communication difficulties to access justice. The New Zealand Law Society Continuing Legal Education is running a free full-day forum for lawyers about how communication assistance works.

The forum will cover in detail how lawyers can recognise flags that may indicate that a participant needs a communication assistant. This is a key skill for all lawyers as part of ensuring their clients have access to justice.

The forum will then cover the practical aspects of the Ministry’s Communication Assistance Quality Framework.

Register for the 13 April 2022 forum. The forum is available to attend in person in Auckland and via livestream.  The livestream will also be available after the event.

The RSU Confirmation of claim form is no longer required in support of an LA application for first refugee/protected person claim. 

07/4/2022 –  A copy of the RSU confirmation of claim form is no longer required in support of an application for legal aid, for a first refugee/protected person claim to the Refugee Status Unit (RSU). Instead, you must provide the following information either in the Family/Civil application form at Question 33 (Why should legal aid be granted?), or in a separate letter:

  1. Confirmation that the applicant has signalled their intention to seek recognition as a refugee/protected person with details of the date, place, and person to whom intention was signalled.
  2. The applicant’s citizenship, immigration status and travel history
  3. Details of applicant’s family members (names of wife/partner and children), age of children
  4. Any prior refugee status claims in another country
  5. What the applicant fears in their home country including:
    1. events/circumstances that produced this fear in the applicant.
    2. information about the applicant’s country which makes the fear credible
    3. why potential alternative protection in the applicant’s country is not available
  6. What convention grounds the applicant relies on in support of claim
  7. The legal aid provider’s assessment of the prospects of success of the claim.

Changes to the COVID-19 Protection Framework in the courts and tribunals

05/4/2022 – Please find below a letter from Carl Crafar, Chief Operating Officer, which outlines information on the changes to the COVID-19 Protection Framework in the courts and tribunals coming into effect on 5 April 2022. It covers:

  • Changes to entry requirements for court and tribunal buildings
  • What’s not changing while we’re under Red settings
  • Expanded Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT)
  • Shedding and what this means for court processes
  • Further changes and Orange settings

You can read this letter here [PDF, 723 KB].

We encourage all legal aid lawyers to read the information in this document.

Thank you for your continued assistance and cooperation.

Additional wait time can be claimed by legal aid providers required to get a RATs at court before a jury trial

24/3/2022 - At the direction of the Chief High Court Judge and the Chief District Court Judge, the jury trial bubble guidelines will be used for the conduct of jury trials in the High Court and District Court. More information on the new Jury Trial Bubble Guidelines can be found on Courts of New Zealand website(external link) and in the What’s New for legal aid lawyers article below.

As part of these new guidelines, all participants involved in jury trials, including counsel, will be required to take RATs every day for the first three days of the trial and every second day thereafter. Counsel may need to turn up to court 30 to 60 minutes prior to the start of the trial in order to get tested before the trial commences.

For jury trial cases, Legal Aid Service will approve up to 1 hour of wait time for each day of the jury trial that you have had to arrive at court early for a RATs test. This can be submitted on your invoice without needing an amendment to grant. Your invoice should briefly describe that the additional wait time is being claimed for RATs testing for a jury trial.

Rapid antigen testing – guidance for private lawyers

24/3/2022 - The increased use of Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) forms part of Aotearoa New Zealand’s response to Omicron. The Ministry of Justice recognises this response, and has increased the use and availability of RATs across our sites.

If you are symptomatic, do not come on site. You can access free RATs if you have symptoms or are a household contact, by ordering online at https://requestrats.covid19.health.nz/(external link) or calling 0800 222 478. The tests can be picked up at your nearest collection centre. To find a collection centre near you, visit: www.healthpoint.co.nz(external link).

Access to the court
Judicial protocols during the COVID-19 protection framework advise that people attending court must:

  • show a vaccine pass
  • provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test administered within 48 hours of attendance, or
  • provide evidence of a negative RAT administered within 24 hours of attendance.

Our court security staff allow the following as evidence of a negative self-administered RAT for building entry for all court participants, including lawyers:

  • Showing a negative RAT result within the last 24 hours on ‘My Covid Record’.
  • Showing a photograph, taken within the last 24 hours, of the negative test (showing the result panel and preferably at least part of the stick).
  • Bringing their negative test in with them (which can be disposed of at the court).  For health and safety reasons, this is not the preferred option. 

Please note, the judicial protocols and court entry requirements are subject to change as the COVID-19 protection framework is reviewed.

Duty lawyers
RATs are available for rostered duty lawyers, should they feel the need to use them. To request a RAT kit, contact your duty lawyer supervisor or local Court Manager / PPE contact in the Court Registry.

See this guidance document for when you should request RATs [PDF, 161 KB].

We suggest tests are completed off-site, before you come to work for the day. However, should you need to take a test on-site, biohazard bins will be available for safe disposal.

Find out more about Rapid antigen testing on the Ministry of Health website(external link).

Jury trial bubble guidelines
At the direction of the Chief High Court Judge and the Chief District Court Judge, the jury trial bubble guidelines will be used for the conduct of jury trials in the High Court and District Court.

The guidelines cover all participants in a jury trial. All court participants involved in a jury trial will be required to take RATs every day for the first three days of the trial and every second day thereafter.

More information can be found in the Jury Trial Bubble Guidelines on the Courts of New Zealand website(external link).

The Ministry of Justice through the court registries will provide RATs to all participants to support this process.

The Ministry is operating two primary models of surveillance testing for the jury bubble process:

  1. Medical provider onsite that oversees the RAT process: A medical provider will oversee testing. The participant will be taken into a room and given instruction on how to self-administer this test, on each day testing is required.
  2. Medical provider onsite day one, and self-administered RATs on each subsequent day: On day one of the trial, a medical provider will be there to oversee testing. Then, on subsequent testing days, participants will be provided with RATs to self-test at home before coming to court. Instructions will be provided on what to do if you test positive or negative, and how to self-administer tests.

Note that local variations to the testing process may apply.

What do you need to do?
If you are involved in a jury trial, you will be asked to undertake regular COVID-19 tests. Please arrive at court 30 to 60 minutes prior to the start of the trial to ensure this can be completed before the trial commences. If you have been provided with a RAT kit to test at home, instructions will be provided on what to do if you test positive or negative.

Counsel should communicate with witnesses to ensure they are aware of the requirement to take a test before attending court. 

Witnesses can use the onsite medical provider where this is available.

If an onsite provider is not available on the day the witness is to attend court, counsel should ensure a test provided by the registry is supplied to the witness. This is to enable them to self-test at home before coming to court.  Where this is not appropriate or possible (e.g. witness is hostile) then please let the court know.

Testing is voluntary. If a participant chooses not to test, the trial judge will be informed and will decide if any action should be taken.

Participants within the bubble
Below are the participant groups that make up the jury bubble. Those present in the public gallery are not part of the bubble:

  • Defendants
  • Court staff
  • Judicial officers
  • Counsel
  • Officer in Charge of the case
  • Interpreters
  • Empanelled jurors
  • Media
  • Witnesses
  • Communication Assistants
  • Corrections staff (if they haven’t already undergone their own surveillance testing)

Private bar lawyers and legal aid lawyers
If you are not a rostered duty lawyer or involved in a jury trial bubble or proceeding that requires RAT surveillance testing, you will not be able to access the Ministry’s supply of RATs. You can visit Unite against COVID-19 website(external link) to find information on when, where and how to get a COVID-19 test, including ordering RAT home testing kits.

Legal aid invoices submitted with a missing date range

04/03/2022 - Changes have been made to our processes for recording Legal Aid invoices. Previously, Legal Aid Services would use the provider's invoice date, if no date range for completed activities was indicated on their invoice. However, this process is not compliant with audit requirements. The date range is mandatory for providers to complete as these dates will confirm that work was completed within the appropriate timeframes as required under s98 of the Legal Services Act 2011.

Any invoices that do not have the required dates will be returned to the provider for them to complete and resubmit. The invoice forms have allocated space for activity dates to be documented.

We thank you for your assistance.

Opportunity to provide feedback on the Ministry’s Care of Children resources

03/03/2022 - The Ministry of Justice is working to improve the resources and information we provide for Care of Children matters (i.e. our website, pamphlets, posters, videos etc). Our aim is to make it easier for children, parents and whānau to navigate Care of Children matters, both in and out of court.

We would like to provide you with an opportunity to tell us what you think of our current Care of Children resources. This feedback will serve as a pulse check for how the Ministry is currently doing in providing essential information to people going through Care of Children matters.

We have created a survey designed for Family Lawyers, Lawyers for Child, Community Law Centre lawyers, Family Dispute Resolution providers and Parenting Through Separation providers. We would like to understand your views of the existing resources and your feedback will inform their refresh.

Please click here to complete this short survey.(external link)(external link)(external link)

 The survey will be open until midnight, Friday 18 March and will take no more than 10 minutes to complete. All survey responses are collected and held anonymously.

If you have any questions about the survey, or the project to improve the resources for Care of Children matters, send them to RICCProject@Justice.govt.nz. We would be happy to provide more information about the project or take any other feedback you might have.

Notification of unavailability

24/02/22- We appreciate that due to COVID-19 there are a number of reasons why you may be unable to accept assignments. If you are unavailable, please remember to notify us by emailing legalaidprovider@justice.govt.nz. This will allow us to ensure you are not disturbed unnecessarily while you are unavailable and means we can assign cases as quickly as possible to available providers. 

Thank you for your assistance.

Implementing the COVID-19 Protection Framework in the courts and tribunals

28/01/2022 - Please find below a letter from Carl Crafar, Chief Operating Officer, which outlines information on the implementation of the COVID-19 Protection Framework in the courts and tribunals, and what the framework means for lawyers and their client. It covers information for lawyers on the following:

  • Entry requirements for courts and tribunal buildings
  • Testing
  • Jury trials
  • A ‘Staggered appearances’ scheduling approach in the District Court
  • Remote appearances
  • Remote filing
  • Other health and safety measures in the courts and tribunals

You can view this letter here [PDF, 1.5 MB].

A fact sheet for jurors about the health and safety measures that will be in place referenced in this letter can be found on the page Jury Service

 

We encourage all legal aid lawyers to read through the information outlined in both of these documents.

We thank you for your assistance and cooperation during this time.

Survey for PDLA lawyers to provide feedback on nationwide holiday period roster

27/01/2022 - The Ministry of Justice implemented a nationwide roster for the PDLA service between 17 December 2021 to 10 January 2022. The purpose of this was to ensure there was timely access to justice throughout the holiday period.

During this period, PDLA lawyers were rostered on to six-hour shifts on one nationwide roster. During rostered shifts lawyers answered PDLA calls from all over Aotearoa and were paid a flat hourly rate to deliver the service.

The Ministry is currently running a survey to get feedback from PDLA lawyers on how they felt the roster worked. A link to the survey can be found below:

consultations.justice.govt.nz/osd/95cafb9c(external link)(external link)(external link)

If you are a PDLA lawyer who participated in the nationwide holiday roster for the service, we would appreciate your feedback. The survey closes at 11:59 pm on 13 February 2022.

COVID-19 Protection Framework traffic light system – Update (24/01/2022)

24/01/2022 - As you will be aware all regions of Aotearoa/New Zealand will move to the Red traffic light at 11:59pm on Sunday 23 January 2022. The policy as advised in the item of 2 December 2021 will now come into force.

As a reminder, for all regions at Red the following policies will 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.

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. This fee is repeatable and may be claimed more than once during the time the region remains at Red.
  • 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 traffic light system. If claiming the fee more than once on the same grant, please briefly describe reasons the fee is required a further time/s.

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.

Thank you again for your continued cooperation. 

Phone scam targeting lawyers

21/1/2022 – The Ministry has been made aware of a scam involving a caller claiming to be from the Ministry of Justice. The caller is contacting lawyers and is seeking payment over the phone for arrears on invoices. Legal aid staff will never seek payment over the phone for invoices. Should you receive one of these calls, do not provide any financial details to the caller and contact Legal Aid Services. 

Wellington Legal Aid office closed Monday 24 January 2022

21/1/2022 - The Wellington Legal Aid office will be closed on Monday 24 January 2022, 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 24 January, you can call 0800 2 LEGAL AID (0800 253 425).

COVID-19 Protection Framework traffic light system – Update (14/4/2022)

 

As part of Budget 2022 the Government has made an investment which will strengthen the legal aid scheme. Read more about what changes this investment will fund here[GB1] .


 [GB1]Link to full article. 

If you have completed work on a grant before and after the rate change, you may choose to:

1.       Submit one invoice with all hours completed at the new rate. To determine the appropriate rate, LAS require you to split your completed hours from before and after the rate change and specify the date range after the activity listed.

If you are using the Word template package, this will generate a higher total than you would expect to be paid. LAS will accept these invoices and assess the correct total amount, with the work prior to 1 July 2022, calculated at the previous rate.

More information on how to change the hourly rate in the Word template package can be found here.

 

2.       Alternatively, if it would better suit your business, you can submit two invoices, one with work prior to 1 July 2022, and the other for work effective from 1 July 2022.

 

This process will only be required for invoices which cover a time period before and after the rate change. The Word template package will be updated later in the year to reflect all changes resulting from the Budget 2022.

Thank you for your patience and cooperation.

 

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