Sup­port sought to en­sure fair le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tion

Stanthorpe Border Post - - NEWS -

JUS­TICE ex­perts are push­ing for more fund­ing to stop vul­ner­a­ble res­i­dents fall­ing through the le­gal cracks.

Stan­thorpe, War­wick and In­gle­wood mag­is­trates han­dled about 2950 crim­i­nal and civil cases last fi­nan­cial year, the Mag­is­trates Courts of Queens­land An­nual Re­port shows.

A to­tal of 1785 adult de­fen­dants and 78 chil­dren faced 3169 charges in 2016-17.

Mag­is­trates also dealt with 214 breaches of bail, pro­ba­tion and sus­pended sen­tences; 337 civil claims, 370 do­mes­tic and fam­ily vi­o­lence or­der cases; and 165 child pro­tec­tion or­der ac­tions.

TASC se­nior lawyer Ka­t­rina Pot­ter said while there was sig­nif­i­cant sup­port for Toowoomba res­i­dents, peo­ple liv­ing in smaller ar­eas, like Stan­thorpe, were se­verely ham­pered by a lack of free or low-cost le­gal ser­vices.

She said re­gional and ru­ral res­i­dents of­ten self-rep­re­sented and were un­aware of all their le­gal rights and obli­ga­tions, which could cause them harm down the track.

“For ex­am­ple, a farmer might con­sent to a do­mes­tic vi­o­lence or­der and not have any idea this will im­pact their abil­ity to keep weapons,” Ms Pot­ter said.

“We are al­ways say­ing we need more fund­ing – it is no se­cret.

“Ru­ral, re­gional and re­mote peo­ple, par­tic­u­larly the vul­ner­a­ble res­i­dents, have to deal with dis­tance, a lack of tech­nol­ogy and if they don’t have a lawyer they can see face-to-face they just won’t get their needs met.”

The State Gov­ern­ment needed to in­vest more money in com­mu­nity and low-cost le­gal ser­vices, said Bill Potts, the deputy pres­i­dent of the Queens­land Law So­ci­ety.

“We build bridges, we build roads, we build tun­nels but why don’t we spend that kind of money on the jus­tice system?”

“We have peo­ple be­ing de­nied jus­tice – they are be­ing con­victed or they can’t appeal prop­erly be­cause they are be­ing de­nied ac­cess to a system that favours those who have the re­sources for rep­re­sen­ta­tion,” he said.

– NewsRe­gional

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