New case assignment process for same day appearances at Manukau District Court

The Manukau District Court is experiencing difficulties with the availability of legal aid lawyers to appear for matters (such as opposed bail) where an appearance is required on the same day the case is assigned.

The Ministry of Justice is concerned about the resulting access to justice issues and implications for defendants (who have the right to a bail application at the first reasonable opportunity).

Accordingly, a revised process for assigning cases where a same day appearance is required is being implemented at the Manukau District Court. This will impact practitioners who have elected to receive criminal case assignments there.

The revised process will be temporary and will be reviewed after each six months of operation to determine if it is working and if it is still required.

What does this mean for legal aid practitioners at Manukau?

The Manukau Legal Aid Office is requesting providers who would be available to accept urgent assignments on any given day to notify them that they would like to be placed on this urgent roster. “Available” means being able to attend the Manukau District Court within 30 minutes of being contacted about an assignment.

Providers who are available to accept urgent assignments on a particular day are asked to call the Manukau Legal Aid Office by 9:30am that day to confirm their availability. The number to call is (09) 262 7750.

During the day, the grants officers will attempt to assign any matters requiring a same day appearance to providers on rotation. However, if the provider on rotation is not available, they will contact another provider who has advised that he or she is available that day.

Urgent assignments made to and accepted by an available provider who is not on rotation will be recorded as rotational assignments. (Note, however, that for cases requiring a PAL 3 or PAL 4 lawyer, it is possible that the case may be reassigned to the defendant’s preferred provider after the urgent matter has been attended to.)

The revised case assignment process will operate from Monday 7 November 2016 onwards.

If you have any questions about the new case assignment process, please contact Tim Staines, Team Manager Legal Aid Services, at tim.staines@justice.govt.nz.

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