Legal aid funding cuts 'false economy'


p1941-Chief-Justice-Trevor-By ERWIN CHLANDA
The Aboriginal legal aid service in Alice Springs (CAALAS) is facing a funding cut of 40% over three years as the Territory Chief Justice (pictured) says such savings are a “false economy”.
Speaking at a dinner in Darwin marking the start of the legal year Justice Reily said: “It is obvious that funding cuts which result in a cut of services will not save money in the long run.
“Unrepresented litigants and under-represented litigants will lead to significant increases in costs in areas such as the courts, the prosecution authorities and, inevitably, the Department of Corrections, particularly prisons.”
Justice Riley says the cuts “strike a blow at the heart of the justice system”.
He said unlike in other jurisdictions judges in the NT don’t get prolong end-of-year holidays. Five judges were sitting from January 5.
p2150-Supreme-Court-BdgSMOn January 19 five jury trials were listed: “Of course we could not run the five trials because we do not have five jury courts.
“We gambled on one falling over and, fortunately, that occurred,” Justice Riley told the dinner guests.
The lists “are gradually blowing out. Whilst civil lodgements are following a slight downward trend there is a constant and disappointing increase in criminal lodgements each year.
“We are approaching the time when the appointment of a seventh judge will be required,” Justice Riley said.
Supreme Court sittings are now held in Katherine “as the work demands”.
The new supreme court in Alice Springs (pictured) is scheduled for completion in 2016.


  1. Yes, CAALAS needs more money but the legal profession has priced itself far beyond the ordinary person.
    A solicitor will cost you from $350 – $490 an hour inc GST. Reply to an email = $66 ($33 to read and $33 to reply).
    The solicitor has to read the law because he isn’t familiar with it – the client pays.
    Solicitor makes a mistake – the client pays to fix it.
    Solicitor “considers” (thinks about) your case – you pay.
    The solicitor feels out of his depth (happens very easily in the NT) so you need counsel.
    Now you are paying $660+ an hour for counsel and the $490 an hour for the solicitor to communicate with counsel = $1,150 per hour.
    Unhappy with the fees?
    Complain to the NT Law Society?
    Good luck! The disciplinary committee is made up of NT lawyers and counsel.
    Yes, self representation is on the rise. Is there a choice?

  2. Where in all this, do the board expenses come into it? Travel and sitting fees and accommodation, not to mention lunches …

  3. What great question. Interested – I am wondering the same because as far as I am aware you are not allowed to pay “sitting fees” using government funds.

  4. Maybe the Federal Government needs to sequester so-called “Royalties” money currently being paid to individuals and redirect it to programs aimed at providing services for those very same people.
    The current method of distribution doesn’t seem to do much for community stability and coherence, not to mention the increased burden on health, police and other emergency services.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here