New regional scheme delivers legal boost

New regional scheme delivers legal boost

Service delivery for regional South Australians has been given a boost, with the Legal Services Commission introducing a new rostered Regional Duty Solicitor Scheme.

The scheme will deliver a cost-effective solution to address service delivery gaps in the regions, where private legal practitioners are available and capable of taking on legally-aided work, providing benefits to clients, the courts and regional lawyers.

Under the previous scheme, clients eligible for legal aid would have to have their matter adjourned and wait for a legal aid application to be processed.

The new scheme allows for a rostered panel practitioner to act for the client and retrospectively claim payment from legal aid for the work undertaken.

The Legal Services Commission has said the scheme is already having an impact in the regions where it has been rolled out.

The roster for the Regional Duty Solicitor Scheme covers: Mount Gambier, Naracoorte, Bordertown, Millicent, Berru, Waikerie, Kadina, Maitland, Port Pirie, Port Lincoln, Ceduna, Coober Pedy and Roxby Downs.

Attorney-General Kyam Maher said the State Government commended the Legal Services Commission for its work in reviewing regional service delivery and identifying gaps and unmet legal need in regional SA.

“This new scheme will improve service delivery for people living in the regions and will help tackle court backlogs,” he said.

“The State Government appreciates the work of the legal practitioners who are undertaking this work, as it will make a positive difference to the operation of our regional courts.”

Legal Services Commission chief executive Gabrielle Canny said this new scheme will help close gaps in regional services, and should result in fewer unrepresented defendants appearing before the courts in regional areas of the state.

“Under the previous scheme, where a client may have been eligible for legal aid, their matter would have been adjourned to allow the client to apply for aid and for the application to be processed,” she said.

“Now, a rostered panel practitioner can act for the client there and then and retrospectively claim payment of legal aid for work undertaken.

Matters to be funded in this way include guilty pleas from custody and bail applications.

“While the scheme has only recently been implemented, we’re already receiving positive feedback from clients and the Courts, with signs of improvement in court lists appearing, helping to address court backlogs and wait times for clients.”

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