Tēnā koutou katoa,
On behalf of Legal Aid Services, I would like to take the opportunity to give all our legal aid providers an update on our response to the COVID-19 situation.
I understand that this is a difficult time for everyone, and that many of you will be worried and have questions about how the Government’s response to COVID-19 will affect the functioning of Legal Aid Services.
Rest assured we are working hard to set in place continuity plans that will allow us to keep functioning and support the essential services that have been agreed by the judiciary(external link). We will also be continuing to pay invoices as quickly as we possibly can, however, we ask you to understand that usual service-levels may not always be possible in the current environment, as we are already functioning at reduced capacity.
Where possible we will be making changes to our current processes that will allow Legal Aid Providers to continue to work safely and remotely when needed. We have also made some decisions to re-prioritise our work programme that will hopefully alleviate any additional stress on you and enable you to focus on your own whanau and your business. These changes are listed below:
Signing legal aid forms
We understand that given the current situation it may not be feasible to get a legal aid application form signed by an applicant. As a result, for the foreseeable future, legal aid will accept any applications that haven’t been signed by your client. Please sign legal aid forms on their behalf and state the reason on the form for not being able to obtain the signature.
Reduced assignments and duty lawyer coverage
As I mentioned above, the priority services for the Courts going forward will now be to deal with custody matters. We appreciate, that this may have a financial impact for many of you with the cancellation of jury trials and the de-prioritisation of other assignments. For this reason, we are working closely with the Public Defence Service (PDS) and have agreed to reduce the number of future assignments assigned to them and similarly with duty lawyer rosters, to try and minimise the financial impact for some of you.
We appreciate that these are difficult times for all of us and some of you may be directly or indirectly affected by the virus or are cautious about attending court. Please follow the guidelines on our website if you are unsure what to do and contact the Provider Services team if you are unavailable.
To assist us to speed up our processes for opposed bail and reassignments for the next few weeks, we would appreciate it if you could email your respective legal aid office on a Monday to advise what days you are available for that immediate week. That will reduce the time we spend calling providers who are unavailable on specific days which will expedite speedy assignment.
Legal Aid approvals
As you may be aware, there is currently a project underway to improve our approval process, due to current circumstances, we have decided to place this project on hold until further notice. We will keep you informed of any developments as and when we are able to.
All current legal aid provider contracts and any approvals due to expire within this time will be extended until June 2021.
Due to our re-prioritisation of processes and resources, some of the current approvals processes will be affected. Those who have already submitted lead applications will be contacted directly to discuss the expected assessment timeframe. Providers who are yet to submit applications for lead approval are encouraged to delay submission until further notice.
Providers applying for supervised approval can continue to do so normally.
Those providers who required urgent approval to act in a specific case can still apply for a limited approval. Limited approvals are available in proceedings where:
More detailed information about limited applications can be found on the Ministry website.
Legal Aid Audits
As you know the Ministry frequently conducts audits of its contracted service providers. Although audits are an important means of ensuring the quality of the Ministry’s contracted services, they have not been confirmed as critical. Legal Aid Services recognises that its providers in the community are themselves responding to these unprecedented events we are in and that it would be inappropriate to continue with the current audit programme at this time.
In making this decision the Ministry is also aware of the most recent advice concerning domestic travel and physical distancing practices.
For those reasons, all provider audits will be paused until further notice. If we require any further information from you regarding audits that are already underway, we will be in touch.
Legal Aid Complaints
The Ministry is also placing a pause on all activity surrounding complaint investigations that are currently underway and no further action is required by those providers affected by this notice.
If you have any questions regarding approvals, audits or complaints please direct them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are currently working through the details of our continuity plan and will be communicating any further information to you through What’s new for Legal Aid Lawyers and through the Law Society as soon as we have more information to share.
I would like to thank-you all for your cooperation during this time, your continued hard work and commitment to legal aid and to our customers is greatly appreciated.
Brett Dooley, Legal Services Commissioner
19/03/2020 (Updated) - From Thursday 19 March 2020, the Ministry of Justice will be looking to consult with Legal Aid providers on a variation to the current Provider Contract. The majority of the proposed changes relate to the ‘Improving the Legal Aid Provider Experience’ project and are aimed at reducing the administrative burden imposed on providers by the current contract extension and reapproval processes. However, we are also taking the opportunity to include some general provisions around privacy. Survey questions will be published on the Ministry’s Consultation Hub and will close on 14 April 2020.
05/03/2020 - We are making a minor change to legal aid policy that we hope will provide more opportunities for junior counsel to gain experience in Court of Appeal/Supreme Court proceedings.
The change is due to feedback we received during the 2018 review of legal aid, and from the Judiciary. In Court of Appeal and Supreme Court cases, where fixed fees have been replaced with a grant of hours, or it is a high cost case, the appointment of one junior counsel to attend the hearing of the appeal will now be pre-approved where research or preparation has been delegated to them prior to the hearing. The pre-approval is conditional on the lead provider believing that the assistance of junior counsel at the hearing is justified and that the junior counsel’s research/preparation hours have or will be invoiced against the hours previously approved for the grant.
The change has been included in the grants handbook available on the Ministry’s website and is effective for relevant hearings from 5 March 2020.
You can find the latest version on the page Grants Handbook.
05/02/2020 - It is Legal Aid policy that where separate grants/charges are sentenced at the same hearing, then only one claim can be made for the sentencing activity and hearing time. In the same way, it has been Legal Aid Service’s expectation that multiple fees for the same activity may not be claimed on separate grants of aid. For example, where a customer has more than one grant of legal aid for multiple criminal charges and a bail application is prepared that applies to the charges on both grants, one bail application fee may be claimed. Following recent queries, we have updated the Grants Handbook at page 98 to confirm that multiple fees for the same activity may not be claimed on separate grants of aid.
05/02/2020 - When an application for legal aid is scanned or faxed to Legal Aid by a Duty Lawyer, please note that Legal Aid do not require the physical copy to be posted. The physical copy can be destroyed.
05/02/2020 - The ‘Subsequent Directions’ fixed fee under Domestic Violence (Applicant) shown below is only to be claimed when, in order to progress an application under the Victim's Orders Against Violent Offenders Act 2014, it is necessary to discharging any existing protection order(s).
20/12/2019 - On behalf of Legal Aid Services, I would like to take the opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas and thank you for your hard work and commitment in providing legal aid and enabling access to justice this year.
I’m pleased that during 2019 we have been able to make continuous improvements to the administration of legal aid to make it easier for our customers and for you to engage with us. In particular, we reviewed and streamlined our policy and procedures around high cost criminal cases and amendment to grant forms, reducing the number of forms from 11 down to 1 simplified form per jurisdiction.
We also made some changes to our invoicing forms, specifically with the implementation of a new duty lawyer timesheet that is easier and faster for duty lawyers to complete. Ultimately, these changes have seen an improvement in our approval of applications and payment timeliness.
You will also be aware that we recently consulted with you in November in relation to improving the experience lawyers have with the approval and contract processes for legal aid services. As a first step we have already simplified the requirements for QCs applying to provide legal aid services. The project will communicate the outcome of this consultation in the new year.
As the Legal Services Commissioner, I am committed to modernising what we do, while still ensuring that we can do our job. I look forward to working with you all as we continue to improve access to justice for the people of New Zealand.
Nga hiahia pai
Tēnā koutou katoa
As the year comes to a close, I’d like to take this opportunity to extend my sincere thanks to all of you who undertake legal aid work. The work you do is critical to our justice system and to providing access to justice for New Zealanders. Your expertise is greatly appreciated.
We are aware that the current process for applying for approval to do legal aid work can be cumbersome – and may even have put some lawyers off applying.
As you may be aware, we have a project underway to streamline the approval and contracting process without compromising the quality of the service.
We have had positive feedback both internally and externally regarding the proposed changes, which we plan to launch in April 2020.
I want to thank everyone who has provided feedback to date. Your participation is critical to shaping the solutions and we are looking forward to working with you all in the new year.
In the meantime, I wish you all a safe and merry Christmas, and a very happy new year.
Ka kite anō au i a koutou
Secretary for Justice
14/11/2019- Your current legal aid contract is due to expire on 30 November 2019. As you are aware, the Ministry is currently conducting a project that aims to improve the experience lawyers have with our approval and contracting processes for legal aid services. The changes associated with the project are expected to be implemented by April 2020. As a result, we will be extending the current contract to 30 June 2020 pending the outcome of that work.
We are also taking this opportunity to make some changes to the contract as follows:
Documents will be sent out to you next week and to keep the administrative burden to a minimum, you will be deemed to have accepted the variation unless you advise email@example.com by 02 December 2019. No signature will be required.
Any questions or queries regarding the contract can also be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
14/11/2019- The end of the year is fast approaching! Please remember, if you have leave planned over the festive season for a period of more than 5 working days, you need to complete the criminal case assignment availability form and email to email@example.com by Monday 24th November 2019.
The criminal case assignment availability form can be found via the link here: Criminal case assignment availability form. [PDF, 567 KB]
This will allow us to identify any areas where provider coverage may be limited and will ensure that you do not get disturbed unnecessarily during your break.
Also, a quick reminder for any future unavailability dates, please email your criminal case assignment availability form to firstname.lastname@example.org.
14/11/2019- Duty lawyers who are required to be on-call over the holiday period from 25 December 2019 through to 5 January 2020 may claim a 2-hour minimum for being on-call.
On any day from 25 December 2019 through to 5 January 2019, when a duty lawyer is rostered to be available for the duty lawyer service, he or she may claim 2 hours, or the actual hours, if that is more than 2 hours.
This does not apply where a duty lawyer is rostered on but cannot attend and finds a replacement, or attends for less than 2 hours and excuses themselves to attend a private matter. This policy is temporary and will apply only for this holiday period.
14/11/2019 – This is a reminder about the cut-off date for invoices to be paid before the holidays. 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 to avoid disappointment prior to the Christmas break.
Friday 29th November will be the cut-off date for payment of invoices prior to the holiday season. Invoices received after this date, may be processed and paid, but we will not be able to guarantee this.
Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.
14/11/2019 - The Ministry of Justice has announced that Levin District Court is to be closed temporarily while earthquake strengthening work is carried out. The court will close from 5pm Friday 15 November. While the court is closed, cases will be transferred to other courts. We expect most cases will be transferred to the Palmerston North District Court.
Legal Aid providers may now need to travel to Palmerston North or another location for court appearances. Travel for criminal cases should be claimed taking the Levin District Court as the starting point.
Travel for family and civil cases should be claimed taking the Levin District Court as the starting point unless travel from the provider’s normal place of work was approved when the case was assigned or has been since.
For travel from Levin District Court to Palmerston North District Court, providers may claim a return trip of 100kms and 90 minutes travel time.
When completing criminal legal aid applications, we ask that Duty Lawyers please specify Levin 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 Levin assignment lists.
Providers on the assignment lists for Levin 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.
We will contact duty lawyers directly about any changes to the duty lawyer service roster.
Thank you for your co-operation.
07/11/2019 - The Ministry of Justice (the Ministry) is seeking to increase the number of Selection Committee members and accordingly the New Zealand Law Society (NZLS) is seeking applications from lawyers wishing to serve as Committee members.
Selection Committees provide recommendations to the Secretary for Justice (the Secretary) on applicants’ suitability for approval to provide legal aid services. They make an important contribution to the quality assurance framework for legal aid lawyers, ensuring that legally aided clients can have confidence in their representation.
Selection Committee meetings are usually held via a monthly teleconference. Quorum for a meeting is three members. Each Selection Committee must include a representative from the Ministry as the Chairperson, and at least one lawyer nominated by the NZLS. Other members must hold expertise in the areas of law relevant to the Committee’s work.
There are currently five regional Selection Committees; Northern, East Coast-Waikato, Taranaki-Whanganui-Manawatu, Central and Southern, and one specialist Selection Committee for the Waitangi Tribunal and the Māori Land and Māori Appellate courts.
The Provider Services (Legal Aid) team at the Ministry have produced a person specification for Selection Committee members which is available below.
Lawyers who wish to apply should complete and submit the Expression of Interest form by Friday 22 November.
It is pertinent to note that there is a project underway that aims to improve the experience lawyers have with the Ministry’s approval and contracting processes to provide legal aid services. One focus for the project is to develop operational guidance for both applicants and Selection Committee members to ensure consistent assessment of applications and quality standards are met. Scheduling of applications for assessment by the Selection Committee will also be improved.
The refined drafts of the application form and guidance for applicants are available for review until 12 November 2019 on the Ministry’s web-based platform, Consultation Hub.
For further information, please contact Bianca McCullough, Senior Advisor Provider Services, via email at Bianca.Mccullough@justice.govt.nz or telephone 04 466 4355.
07/11/2019- The Ministry of Health is seeking suitably qualified barristers and solicitors across New Zealand for the role of District Inspectors.
District Inspectors are lawyers appointed by the Minster of Health under section 94 of the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992 (the Act). District Inspectors are appointed to ensure the provisions of the Act are cared for in accordance with the statutory requirements of the Act and principles of natural justice, and monitor the mental health services providing compulsory assessment and treatment.
Time commitment should be no more than 30 percent of practise. Applications must be received by 3 February 2020, interviews will be scheduled during March and appointments will commence 1 July 2020.
For more information about the role and how to apply please visit the Law Society website(external link).
7/11/2019 - We have updated our policy to specifically allow for situations where a criminal case is transferred to the nearest District Court or High Court in accordance with sections 72-74 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2011. For example, a proceeding may be transferred from a District Court that does not have jury trial jurisdiction, to the nearest District Court that does. The lead provider can maintain the assignment in these instances and travel costs may be claimed in accordance with the travel disbursements policy.
The assignment policy has also been clarified to state that the provider is expected to notify the Commissioner of location changes where a reassignment may be required.
7/11/2019 - We are publishing the table of locations where exceptions to the assignment policy will apply. At these locations, 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 exceptions are required because of an insufficient number of local providers in the law type at the listed courts or locations. In family cases, a provider is outside the location where the proceeding is to be held if the travel will be ‘non-local’ as defined in the disbursements policy. In criminal cases, the travel must be ‘non-local’ as defined in the disbursements policy and the provider must not have elected to be on the relevant assignment list for the court.
The location exceptions will be reviewed and updated when available provider coverage changes. These changes have been updated in the Grants Handbook. [PDF, 1.6 MB]
29/10/2019 - In August we advised you of a project that is underway to improve the experience lawyers have with the Ministry of Justice’s approval and contracting processes to provide legal aid services. We would like to advise you that consultation for this project is now open.
Since August, the project has been working hard to produce refined drafts of the below documents:
1. The application form
This has been condensed to one fit for purpose form that is relevant to all areas of law.
2. Guidelines for applying to be a legal aid provider
Guidelines have been created to help lawyers when completing the application form for approval to provide legal aid services. The guidelines will assist lawyers to determine when they should apply and what is required to complete the application to a standard that is acceptable for the Selection Committee to assess.
Consultation will be open for two weeks. You may be involved in this process by accessing the Ministry’s web-based platform, Consultation Hub at the following link:
Refined drafts of the application form and guidelines will be available for you to review. You will be asked a series of questions relating to the proposed documents and process.
The Ministry encourages you to provide feedback during the consultation period. Your feedback will be considered and, where appropriate, incorporated into the final solutions to ensure an improved experience.
29/10/2019 - 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 to avoid disappointment prior to the Christmas break.
Friday 29th November will be the cut-off date for payment of invoices prior to the holiday season. Invoices received after this date, may be processed and paid, but we will not be able to guarantee this.
Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.
29/10/2019 - The major technical issues that we were experiencing with some of our email accounts have now been resolved.
This applies to:
Please use these email accounts as you normally would for matters relating to any applications or grants that are managed by the Wellington Legal Aid office.
25/10/2019 - Legal Aid Services are currently experiencing major technical issues with some of our email accounts.
We are currently not able to receive or send any emails from the following Wellington email accounts:
Any emails that you send to these accounts at current will bounce back.
Our Auckland email addresses are still up and functioning. Please send any enquires and emails that you would usually send to any of the addresses above to one of the addresses below in the meantime:
We are currently looking into the issue, and aim to get it resolved as quickly as possible.
24/10/2019 - The Ministry of Justice has published information on legal aid payments to firms in the 2018/19 financial year.
Legal Services Commissioner Brett Dooley says the data shows payments to 1258 firms whose legal aid providers undertook work on a range of cases in the criminal, civil and family courts and a number of specialist courts and tribunals. The Ministry spent 180 million on legal aid in 2018/19 which is an increase of $20 million on the year before.
There are currently about 2060 private lawyers approved to provide legal aid services, working for firms or independently.
You can view the report on the page Legal aid payments to firms.
24/10/19 - We have made a small update to the criminal amendment to grant forms in the Word templates. Form 51 and 51A have been combined so that the same form can be used for all criminal cases.
You can download the updated Word template package from the page Legal aid lawyers forms.
All current forms will continue to be accepted.
12/09/2019 - In July, I made a change to legal aid policy on witness expenses, making claims for them require prior approval by an amendment to grant. After receiving feedback from legal aid providers and going back to the policy and legislation I have decided to reverse that decision. At the same time, I have taken the opportunity to review the private car mileage rate payable for witness travel and to align it with our travel policy for providers. I acknowledge that securing the attendance of witnesses at court is part and parcel of delivering legal services. However, in the interests of economy for the customer, who may have to repay the cost of their legal aid, and for legal aid, providers should claim witness expenses only where, in the provider’s assessment, the cost of attending a hearing may be an obstacle to a witness’s attendance.
Subject to that, I have decided that the following witness expenses will be pre-approved for all law types, except Waitangi:
You can find the Schedule to the Witness Fees and Interpreter’s Regulations 1974 on the New Zealand Legislation website:
The following witness expenses will require prior approval:
In determining whether travel by air is necessary, the provider is expected to consider whether the witnesses evidence can be effectively given by audio visual link.
Where a witness is a school child, or a child under school age, fees and allowances are not payable. However, a parent or guardian who needs to attend with any child witness, may be paid the fees and allowances, as well as reasonable travel costs in accordance with this policy for themselves and the child. Expert witness costs are covered by separate expert witness attendance and specialist report policies.
The Witness Fees and Interpreter’s Regulations 1974 apply to witnesses for the Crown. However, I have decided to make the same fees and allowances available to a legal aid provider’s witnesses.
I apologise for any confusion this may have caused and thank you for your commitment to legal aid.
Legal Services Commissioner
29/08/2019 - New information to help people experiencing a relationship break up has been added to the Ministry of Justice website.
We have developed a new navigating tool on our website to present information about relationship break ups in a more user- friendly way. It allows people to easily select the information that is relevant to their situation.
The tool has been tested with users including members of the public Ministry of Justice staff, and service providers. Their feedback has been used in the design and development of the new content.
You can check out the new tool on the Relationship Break up page.
The care of children content in the Family section of our website has also been updated as part of this project, so please check and update your links as required.
See our new Care of Children section.
If you have any questions or find any issues with the new pages, please contact email@example.com
19/08/2019 - Applying to be a legal aid provider is now much easier for Queen’s Counsel (QCs), says Secretary for Justice Andrew Kibblewhite.
“We know that the process to become a legal aid provider is complex and difficult and we’re making changes to streamline this process,” says Mr Kibblewhite.
“We recognise the level of skill and dedication required to achieve QC status and we’re removing some of the hoops they need to jump through. I have decided that we will not require Queen’s Counsel to provide work samples or references if they are seeking approval to work in their usual area of practice."
The application forms can be found on the legal aid lawyers section of the Ministry's website.
This change is part of a wider project to improve the experience that lawyers have with the Ministry of Justice’s approval and contracting processes for legal aid services. Following feedback from the profession the first step has been to review the legal aid application requirements for QCs.
Due to the size of the project, and considering the effect on lawyers, the Ministry is undertaking two phases of work. The first phase will focus on provider application, approval and contracting processes.
Mr Kibblewhite recognises that the audits and complaints processes also need reviewing. In April 2020, the Ministry will begin the second phase of work. This phase will focus on quality assurance processes including the complaints and audit processes.
“There are many benefits to this project; we’ll make it easier for lawyers to become legal aid providers and in doing so we also hope to grow the pool of providers, making it much easier for people to find a legal aid lawyer,” says Mr Kibblewhite.
“We want to hear your thoughts on the changes we are making and this engagement will begin from October.”
The changes will affect lawyers in all courts and tribunals acting in proceedings for which legal aid may be granted under sections 6-8 and 10-12 of the Legal Services Act 2011. The changes will also affect anyone applying to provide specified legal services.
Earlier this year the Ministry completed several discovery interviews with providers who recently went through the application, approval and contracting processes. The intent of the interviews was to understand the current state and the difficulties people experienced when undertaking these processes. During the interviews the Ministry found most participants experienced similar difficulties, in particular that the processes are administratively burdensome, discouraging lawyers from applying to provide legal aid services.
From this the Ministry identified four focus areas to improve the approval and contracting processes.
There are currently 22 application forms for lawyers who want to become a legal aid provider. Each form relates to a specific area of law. The application forms are not easy to use, and the information collected needs to be reviewed. To address this, the Ministry aims to reduce the number of application forms and ask purposeful questions that are required for the assessment. These changes should decrease the time and effort required to make an application and avoid discouraging lawyers from wanting to apply to provide legal aid services.
A legal aid lawyer must reapply every 3-5 years to continue providing legal aid services in each area of law they are approved for. The intention of the reapproval process is to provide the Secretary for Justice with an opportunity to reassess an existing legal aid lawyer’s performance. In practice, this is not the appropriate stage to undertake that assessment, particularly as performance can be managed through processes like audits, which form a part of the overall quality assurance framework. The project aims to remove the requirement for a lawyer to continue reapplying for approval throughout their period of service.
Six regional Selection Committee panels provide recommendations to the Secretary for Justice on an applicant’s suitability to provide the legal aid service(s) applied for. The Legal Services Quality Assurance Regulations 2011 set out the approval requirements at a high-level. The project aims to develop operational guidance for both applicants and Selection Committee members to ensure consistent assessment of applications and quality standards are met. Scheduling of applications for assessment by the Selection Committee will also be improved.
When a lawyer is approved to provide legal aid services, they are given a contract which is valid for two years. After two years, a new contract is sent to approved legal aid lawyers. Contract renewals are not currently processed at the same time as a lawyer is re-approved to provide legal aid services. The project aims to remove the contract renewal process and combine the contract with the approval documentation when a lawyer first applies to provide legal aid services. This change will remove unnecessary administration for legal aid lawyers and the Ministry.
Consultation with the legal profession will begin in October 2019. Consultation will be conducted via the Ministry’s web-based platform, Consultation Hub. The Ministry encourages you to provide feedback during the consultation period to ensure the proposed solutions will deliver an improved experience. The Ministry will provide you with a further update regarding the consultation process in early October.
19/08/2019 - In circumstances where customers are unable to sign legal aid application forms because of security at court cells, Legal Aid will accept applications signed by a lawyer on behalf of the customer where an explanation is provided. We recommend the lawyer sign for the applicant and write their name, their relationship and an explanation in the space provided on the form.
Applications which are not signed by the customer, with no explanation provided, will be returned to the customer as per our usual process.
01/08/19 – We are updating our mileage rate to align with the IRD rate. The new rate is $0.79 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 5 August 2019. However to mitigate unnecessary administrative work, claims received after 5 August 2019 at the old rate can still be processed as claimed.
If you are using the Word template forms, after the new rate has been recorded once, it will remember that rate going forward.
25/07/2019 - Further to our article of 23 May 2019, the new version of the forms is now available from our website page for Legal aid lawyer Forms. The previous version of the forms will be accepted until 30 August 2019.
The improvements include:
The following forms have been removed from the Word package:
We will still be investigating the possibility of making the Word template package Mac compatible. An update will be provided once the assessment is complete.
As part of this release, we have also made changes to the amendment to grant forms to:
25/07/2019 - The Returning Offenders (Management and Information) Act 2015 came into effect on 18 November 2015. Matters under this Act may be a civil proceeding and require a civil legal aid application and a civil legal aid lawyer. If you are contacted by someone who is subject to this Act about a civil matter and you do not have a civil legal aid approval, you may apply for a limited civil approval. Providers with criminal PAL 2 approval or above will be considered for a streamlined limited approval to conduct these types of proceedings on a case-by-case basis. Lawyers should contact Legal Aid Provider Services in the first instance regarding any limited civil approval by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Act enables the Department of Corrections to manage and monitor certain offenders returning from overseas. The supervision regime applies to eligible offenders who have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of more than one year in another country and determined by the Commissioner of Police to be returning prisoners.
Returning prisoners may require legal representation relating to:
An application to impose conditions and a review of a determination are civil proceedings. A civil legal aid application and a civil legal aid lawyer will be required.
If the returned prisoner nominates a legal aid lawyer who is not approved for civil legal aid, the lawyer may apply for a limited civil approval. Lawyers with criminal PAL 2 approval or above will be considered for a streamlined limited approval to conduct these types of proceedings on a case-by-case basis. Lawyers should contact Legal Aid Provider Services in the first instance regarding any limited civil approval by emailing email@example.com.
A breach of a release condition under this Act 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.
25/07/2019 - In 2016 we set up a caller ID function to enable you to identify calls from Legal Aid Services.
When we call you, there are three possible numbers that could appear:
Please remember to save these numbers under one contact on your phone (e.g. Legal Aid - do not reply).
Do not call these numbers back as it will not connect to Legal Aid Services. To contact us, please continue to use the existing numbers included on our correspondence or call 0800 2 LEGAL AID (0800 253 425).
12/07/2019 - Previously, witness fees and costs were a pre-approved disbursement. The amounts payable were governed by the Witnesses and Interpreters Fees Regulations 1974.
We have conducted a review in this area and have revised legal aid policy. Witness costs will no longer be pre-approved from 22 July 2019 as there is no statutory requirement for them to be paid by legal aid. The pre-approved disbursement will not appear in grants schedules for applications received from that date. It will continue to appear in the grants schedules where the application was received before 22 July 2019 but will not be available to claim.
The invoice forms will be updated at the time of the next release of the WORD templates.
If you are submitting an amendment to grant to cover witness costs, please ensure it identifies the exceptional circumstances that require them to be paid by legal aid. Expert witness travel is not affected. It continues to require prior approval.
04/07/2019 - As you will be aware there have been changes to the family violence legislation with the introduction of the Family Violence Act 2018 from the 1st July 2019. This change means that correspondence in the future should refer to ‘Family Violence’ instead of ‘domestic violence’.
We are currently working with our ICT and vendors to make the necessary changes. In the meantime, the wording ‘domestic violence’ will be retained in the legal aid granting letters and invoice form 33 at this current time.
20/06/2019- The second phase of changes to family violence legislation takes effect on 1 July 2019.
Key changes in the Family Violence Act 2018 and the Family Violence (Amendments) Act are summarised below:
Standard conditions of Protection Orders change on 1 July and apply to people who already have a Protection Order.
One key change is that if a protected person agrees to contact with the respondent, they must give consent in writing by email, letter, text or other digital message.
Consent cannot override any special conditions restricting contact such as supervised contact for a child or other no-contact conditions. The protected person can withdraw consent at any time by any means.
From 1 July a beach of a Property Order will be treated as a breach of a Protection Order.
Types of abuse the person who's been violent must not do have been expanded to include:
The legislation expands the definition of family violence to include coercion or controlling behaviour and dowry-related abuse.
A flyer which covers these changes is attached below:
The definition of a child is amended to a person under the age of 18 to align with the Oranga Tamariki Act and the term ‘minor’ is removed from the legislation.
A young person aged 16 or over may apply for a Protection Order without a representative. Protection Orders may be issued against a young person aged between 16 and 18 years in special circumstances. This is intended for young couples in particular.
All children of an applicant will be covered by a Protection Order, including those born after an Order is granted. Children not living with the applicant can be included on request.
Judges can impose protective conditions for handover arrangements to keep children safe, whenever family violence has occurred, including psychological violence.
Judges can make a temporary Protection Order when considering applications under CoCA if they have concerns about the safety of a child or an adult.
Judges will be able to take more factors into account when considering the safety of a child under CoCA applications, including family violence offences.
Further information is available on the Ministry of Justice website page Family Violence.
Alternatively, you can refer to the Family Violence Act 2018(external link).
20/06/2019- The Canterbury Earthquakes Insurance Tribunal was launched by Justice Minister Andrew Little on Monday 17 June 2019. Proceedings before the tribunal under the Canterbury Earthquakes Insurance Tribunal Act 2019 are eligible for legal aid.
31/05/2019 - You may be aware that during financial year 2018/19 the Ministry undertook a review of legal aid policy settings. Now that Budget announcements have been made we can share the outcome of the review with you.
Many of you met with us during the review and we appreciate the time and effort you took to meet with us and the feedback you gave us. Some of the key themes highlighted in your feedback included provider remuneration, eligibility thresholds for civil/family legal aid and the administrative burden on you of legal aid processes.
We did not receive Budget funding, which was required to implement changes arising from the review. This means there will be no substantive changes made to legal aid policy settings this year following the outcome of the legal aid review.
We understand that many of you will be disappointed in the result and it is not what you may have been expecting. Legal aid reviews are scheduled for regular intervals and there will be an opportunity to examine legal aid policy settings in the future. In the interim, the Ministry has completed work, and is looking at further ways of reducing the administrative burden of legal aid and improving the provider experience.
During 2018 we were able to increase the remuneration rates for the Police Detention Legal Assistance service. We have also worked to reduce and simplify the legal aid application forms and the amendment to grant forms. We reviewed the policies around complex criminal cases and travel. We are currently looking at ways to simplify the invoice forms.
We have begun reviewing our provider application, approval, contracting and quality assurance processes. The intent of this work is to ensure that any improvements made will streamline, integrate and align with the rest of the legal aid system so that transactions are seamless, not administratively burdensome, purposeful to business operations and contribute to a successful working relationship with you. As this is a large piece of work, the Ministry will undertake two phases of work. The first phase will focus on a review of our provider application, approval and contracting processes and the second phase, will focus on quality assurance processes. The Ministry will work with you and other key stakeholders to take a co-design approach to our improvement activity.
Tracey Baguley, Legal Aid Services Manager
23/05/2019 -Thank you to everyone who completed the legal aid invoicing survey earlier this year. The majority of responses were positive and the feedback has been very useful.
Having conducted the review, we have decided we will be making some improvements. These include:
We are also investigating the possibility of making the Word template package Mac compatible. The purpose of the template package is to make your invoicing easier and quicker as it prepopulates information and calculates payment for you. Making it Mac compatible will expand this benefit.
At this stage we anticipate the new forms to be available in July, but we will update you closer to the time.
23/05/2019 - After considering feedback from legal aid providers, we have reviewed the policy relating to applications made under section 67 of the Parole Act 2002. As you may be aware, under the existing policy, legal aid is not available for these applications.
As a result of that review, we have now determined that an application under s 67 may be eligible for legal aid. The fact that a s 67 application can lead to an appeal under s 68 brings the application within the definition of "legal services" - s 4 (1) Legal Services Act 2011. Further, s 68 (2) provides that no appeal can be lodged under this section until the relevant order has first been reviewed under s 67. An application under s 67 is accordingly a necessary precondition for any subsequent appeal to the High Court.
The fixed fee ‘parole hearing preparation - other proceedings entitled to counsel’ is available for s 67 applications for the amount of $700.
If you have any questions, please email NSDOpsSupport@justice.govt.nz
23/05/2019 -We have recently received feedback about the way we currently consider travel to attend appearances. We have clarified this policy to ensure consistency in our practice. Necessary travel will be pre-approved to all attendances that result in hearing time being paid. An amendment to grant will not be necessary.
In determining whether travel is necessary, the provider is expected to consider whether the attendance can be effectively carried out another way; for example, via telephone, or the relevant person travelling to the providers normal place of work.
You can read more about travel disbursements on page 125 of the grants handbook, which is linked below.
02/05/2019 - The New Zealand Law Society has published an article in this week’s Law Points in relation to obligations and considerations when dealing with media enquiries.
The Ministry would like to remind providers that this applies as much to legal aid work as it does to any other work by a lawyer (see s 81(2) of the Legal Services Act 2011).
02/05/2019 – From 13 May 2019, the Auckland legal aid office will be administering parole, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court legal aid applications from customers located in Auckland and Northland. The Wellington legal aid office will continue to administer these applications for customers located in the Waikato and further south.
From that date, please send these types of legal aid applications for Auckland and Northland customers to AKLCriminallegalaid@justice.govt.nz, Fax 09 488 5441, or by post to BX10660 North Shore City.
Continue to send these applications for customers south of Auckland to WGNCriminallegalaid@justice.govt.nz, Fax 04 472 5250, or SX10146 Wellington, if by post.
For clarification, Springhill Corrections Facility is in the Waikato and applications from customers in custody there, will be administered by the Wellington legal aid office.
This change is to align the geographical boundaries of our administration of all criminal legal aid and to improve the efficiency of our processing. Thank you for your cooperation.
24/04/2019 - On Wednesday 1 May we will be implementing a new duty lawyer invoice at all non PDS court sites. The new invoice has been tested at PDS sites and is working well. The invoice is more streamlined and will be faster for Duty Lawyers to complete.
We ask for your support in completing the invoices each day when you are at court and appreciate full information being provided in legible writing. This assists us in paying your invoices in a timely manner.
15/04/2019 – From 6 May 2019, the Wellington office will be administering family legal aid applications for proceedings in the Family Courts at:
Dannevirke, Gisborne, Hamilton, Hastings, Huntly, Morrinsville, Napier, Taumarunui, Te Awamutu, Te Kuiti, Thames, Tokoroa, Waipukurau and Wairoa.
From that date, please send legal aid applications for those locations to WGNFamilylegalaid@justice.govt.nz or SX10146 Wellington, if sending by post. This change is to align the geographical boundaries of our administration of family and criminal legal aid and to improve the efficiency of our processing. Thank you for your cooperation.
15/04/2019 - Disbursements for printing disclosure in criminal cases are pre-approved up to a maximum of $500 (or 5,000 pages at $0.10 per page). If the actual costs of printing disclosure are higher than the pre-approved maximum, re-imbursement may be claimed by seeking prior approval on an amendment to grant form.
Unfortunately, the new Amendment to Grant Form 51 indicates pre-approval is up to 500 pages. We apologise for this error. We are currently reviewing the invoice forms and will correct this amendment to grant form when improvements to the invoice forms are released.
15/04/2019 - You may remember that in July last year we amended the travel policy to allow non-local travel (defined as a return trip of over 50km or more than one hour) to be claimed where the duty lawyer is on the duty lawyer roster for a court.
We would like to take the opportunity to remind lawyers that non-local travel for the duty lawyer service is defined as travel involving a return trip from the provider’s normal place of work to the travel destination where:
If you think you may not have claimed for travel where the above has applied or you have a query regarding whether or not you can claim, please don’t hesitate to contact us on the following paymentsDL@justice.govt.nz
28/03/2019 - We are pleased to announce that we have finalised the new amendment to grant forms and high cost case policy.
The new policy takes effect from 1 April 2019, and the new forms should also be used from this date.
If you wish to read the new policy, please refer to the grants handbook.
The electronic Word template package (version 16) has been updated with the new forms and will be available to download from Monday morning at the page Download Word template packages.
The new forms will also be available in editable PDF on the Ministry's website at the page PDF Legal aid forms.
We would like to thank everyone who engaged with the review, and who has provided feedback throughout this process.
21/03/2019 - The Ministry of Health is seeking suitably qualified barristers and solicitors within the Northland Area for the role of Deputy District Inspector.
District inspectors (and deputy district inspectors) are lawyers appointed by the Minister of Health under section 94 of the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992 (the Act). District inspectors are appointed to ensure that the provisions of the Act are upheld. They assist in investigating complaints, ensuring that patients under the Act are cared for in accordance with the statutory requirements of the Act and principles of natural justice, and monitor the mental health services providing compulsory assessment and treatment.
Time commitment should be no more than 30 percent of practice. This role is specifically for a deputy district inspector, where appointment will run until 30 June 2020, when the next round of district inspector appointments will be held. The successful candidate will likely be appointed for the next term as a District Inspector. For more information about the role and how to apply, please visit the Law Society website(external link).
07/03/2019 – We are pleased to advise that we have finalised the new criminal and civil/family amendment to grant forms, and changes to the high cost cases policies.
Thank you to everyone who engaged with these reviews. Your contributions helped us to determine the best way to ensure that our amendment to grant forms and the high cost criminal case policies are fit for purpose and work well for you and our customers.
The submissions and decisions document linked below gives a summary of your feedback and provides context around why we have made the changes.
The new forms and the key changes to high cost cases policies are included.
08/02/2019 - We recently sought your feedback on proposed changes to the amendment to grant forms and the high cost cases policy. We have proposed simplifying and consolidating 11 amendment to grant forms into 3 forms; 1 for criminal, 1 for family and civil law types and 1 for the special area of Waitangi Tribunal grants. Changes proposed to the high cost cases policy will streamline our management of these most expensive and complex criminal cases, upskill our people and also make it easier for you to meet our information needs.
We are reviewing your feedback and hope to publish the final decisions and training document via a YouTube presentation within the next month, with a view to implementing the new forms and the revised policy from 1 April 2019. Thank you to everyone who gave feedback on these proposals.
17/01/2019 - As you are aware, over the last 12 months we have been undertaking a review of all of our forms in order to make it easier for you to engage with us and for us to process your requests quickly. Our next piece of work will be focussing on invoices.
To help inform this work we would like to better understand how legal aid providers invoice. Please take a minute to complete this 4 question survey in the link below. The survey will be available until 1 February 2019.
10/01/2019 – This is a reminder about our review of the current high cost case policy and amendment to grant forms. Within this review, the Ministry is proposing to combine the current eleven forms into three to mirror the application forms (Criminal, Civil/Family and Waitangi). The Waitangi amendment to grant form will stay the same.
We would welcome your feedback as it will help ensure the new forms are fit-for-purpose and meet the needs of our customers and providers. The consultation page is located at the link below and is open until 18 January 2019.
If you have any questions during the consultation, please feel free to contact Robert Ives, Service Delivery Manager at Robert.Ives@justice.govt.nz
Looking for old what's new items? What's new for legal aid lawyers articles from 2018 can now be found on the 2018 archive page.
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