Feb 14 - Legal Aid Concerns Raised by GSD
The GSD is calling on the Government to state what progress, if any, has been achieved on the increase of limits for qualification of legal aid and assistance as set out in the GSLP’s 2011 manifesto.
Selwyn Figueras, Shadow Minister for Justice, explained that ‘the only progress the Government has made on this agenda is the extension of legal assistance in complex cases involving fraud. That extension currently applies to one case, which is ongoing.
‘Despite the fact that the Minister himself has acknowledged in Parliament that 'there can be complex or exceptionally difficult criminal cases other than fraud cases’ the fact remains that no extension of the legal aid rules has been brought about by the Government other than in a manner which affects one case, nothing more. The Minister has had a draft which he has been considering since February 2012 and the Opposition considers that the Government has surely had enough time to form a view in this respect.’
The GSD Government conducted an extensive consultation exercise for the purposes of carrying out a root and branch reform of the legal aid and legal assistance systems and draft legislation was produced. They understand that the Government might wish to go down a different route, but over two years into their term in office nothing appears to have been done except in serious fraud cases and it is causing some people hardship.
‘For example’ Selwyn continues, ‘in family law there are mothers who do not qualify for legal assistance because of the low thresholds and find it difficult to pursue fathers who do not pay maintenance. Conversely, there are fathers who do not qualify despite very low incomes and cannot afford to engage lawyers to pursue a case to have access to their children.’