Duty Lawyer Service saves courts time and money
Court proceedings can be daunting. For those who do not have the financial means to seek private legal representation, or who may be unfamiliar with the nuances of the legal process, this can particularly intimidating. A new Duty Lawyer Service (DLS) has stepped in to decode the process for anyone attending court.
Launched in February 2020, the DLS is an initiative from Marrickville Legal Centre in conjunction with the Burwood Local Court. The service works to fill the gap in the provision of legal services and representation of unrepresented litigants who attend the local court for domestic violence proceedings, traffic violations and summary crime. The initiative is a safety net for individuals who are not eligible for a grant of aid from Legal Aid NSW.
Burwood, and its surrounds, is home to a melting pot of cultures. It is therefore common for many Culturally And Linguistically Diverse litigants to encounter issues with complex legal jargon and court documents. The DLS works to overcome language barriers to ensure all people are given an equal opportunity at court.
In its early days, the benefits of the project are already apparent. Over a 4-week period, 80 individuals have been assisted in traffic and minor criminal matters and 39 in AVO matters.
On the value of the service for clients, Marrickville Legal Centre solicitor Danny Shaw shares “This service provides fundamental assistance and advice to help people navigate the legal system and the court process. Without the service,” he shares, “Many people have no understanding of court procedures, are unable to read court documents and are confused about what they should do.”
The initiative promotes efficient use of court time as DLS clients receive legal advice in a timely manner, including many instances where there is no legal defense.
Burwood Court has shown its support of Marrickville Legal Centre’s Duty Lawyer Service; providing its duty lawyers with conference rooms as well as facilitating collaborative relationships between MLC and the NSW Police Force, Domestic Violence Liaison Officers and Legal Aid.
“If these people did not receive legal support, they would remain confused, would take up court resources, and often enter inappropriate pleas,” Mr. Shaw commented. “It is critical that all people be able to understand their rights and obligations throughout the legal process.”
Since the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the DLS has continued to provide legal advice and representation for disadvantaged clients on a remote basis.
The service was endorsed by Chief Magistrate of the Local Court, Judge Graeme Henson AM, who stated the service “would be invaluable in the current climate as the Court begins addressing the backlog of matters arising from necessary COVID-19 pandemic arrangements.”
Marrickville Legal Centre hope to continue the initiative at Burwood Local Court in 2020-2021 and propose to expand to Sutherland Local Court. A $1.5 million saving to Government has been projected across the two local courts. Potential flow-on effects to NSW Police are likely, allowing the redeployment of officers and prosecutors.
The Duty Lawyer Service is part of Marrickville Legal Centre’s commitment to promoting social justice for people who are disadvantaged by our legal system, and its vision to create access to justice for all.
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