The heads of Australia’s eight law societies representing more than 60,000 practising solicitors have called on the Prime Minster to return funding to the legal assistance sector in an open letter to be published in The Australian tomorrow (4 November 2016).
Mr Tass Liveris, President of Law Society Northern Territory, said that the legal assistance sector, which includes Legal Aid, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services and Community Legal Centres, will face a funding cut of 30 per cent or the equivalent of around $35 million from 1 July next year.
“Adequate legal assistance services are critical in ensuring fairness and efficiency in our court system and are essential to providing access to justice for the most disadvantaged and vulnerable members of our communities,” Mr Liveris said.
Law Society Northern Territory (Society) congratulates David Woodroffe on his appointment as the Principal Legal Officer (“PLO”) of the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA).
Mr Woodroffe has been a member of the Society’s Council since 2014. During that time, he has been the chairman of the Society’s Reconciliation Action Plan Implementation Committee and the Society’s representative on the Law Council of Australia’s Criminal Law Committee. He was awarded the prestigious Indigenous Legal professional of the year award in 2013.
Society president Mr Tass Liveris said, “Mr Woodroffe has had a distinguished career in the criminal law. He is an established and respected advocate and defence lawyer and routinely represents clients in the Supreme Court and the Local Court. Mr Woodroffe is also an established manager of staff, having been the managing criminal solicitor for NAAJA since 2010 and he brings to the role the important balance of being both a good lawyer and a good manager.”
Law Society Northern Territory (Society) supports the Prime Minister’s calls for a royal commission into the abuse of juveniles in the Northern Territory corrections system.
Society president Mr Tass Liveris said, “Whilst the Society welcomes the overwhelming nation-wide response that the 4 Corners expose has provoked, these are not new issues. The Society, amongst other stakeholders, has long been drawing attention to the enormous crisis in juvenile detention in the Northern Territory and been calling for real and immediate action. Unfortunately, these calls have been largely ignored and the result is the shocking and deepening crisis in juvenile detention in the Northern Territory.”
Mr Liveris said, “The government should have closed Don Dale Youth Detention Centre years ago and acted on the16 recommendations of the January 2015 Vita report and reports from successive Children’s Commissioners. However, despite the alarming escalation of juvenile imprisonment rates, especially in the Indigenous community, the government has only ever responded in an ad hoc, band-aid way that has now been shown to have comprehensively failed the community.”
Law Society NT (Society) welcomes the announcement that Sonia Brownhill SC will succeed Michael Grant QC as the Solicitor-General for the Northern Territory.
Ms Brownhill will become the first female Solicitor-General in the history of the Northern Territory. Society President Tass Liveris said, “Ms Brownhill’s appointment is an important one, as it continues the growing trend of local lawyers being appointed to senior and leadership roles in the legal profession and the judiciary, as well as that of high achieving women in the law.”.
Ms Brownhill was appointed Crown Counsel in 2005, where she routinely appeared in the Court of Appeal and the High Court of Australia. In 2011, Ms Brownhill joined the independent Bar, practicing in areas such as property law (including native title and Aboriginal land matters), administrative and public law, town planning, general contract law, negligence and personal injury law. In 2015, she became only the third female to be appointed Senior Counsel in the Northern Territory under the Supreme Court (Senior Counsel) Rules.
The Law Society Northern Territory (Society) today threw its support behind an unprecedented national ‘Legal Aid Matters’ campaign (http://legalaidmatters.org.au) aimed at ensuring the next Federal Government responds decisively to Australia’s legal aid funding crisis.
With rallies and events occurring in major cities in this national Law Week, the Legal Aid Matters campaign will bring a sharp focus to the funding crisis that crippling this vital justice safety net.
Tass Liveris (Society President) said that Australia’s legal aid system is in crisis and that justice is being denied to thousands of Australians each year.
“Successive federal governments have ripped hundreds of millions of dollars from legal aid, crippling this vital justice safety net,” Mr Liveris said.
The Law Society Northern Territory President Mr Tass Liveris expressed concern about the proposed changes to bail laws. “Everyone is sick and tired of what communities see as the revolving door of jail. We have been on this path for some time and the community is no safer for it. These proposed changes are another step in the wrong direction.” Mr Liveris said.
“This does not respond to community concerns because it will not fix the problem – it will only make it worse.” Mr Liveris said.
“Communities are calling for real action on this issue – everyone including the Minister knows that locking kids up does nothing to curb offending – when young people are exposed to the criminal justice system they are much more likely to become adult offenders. And we have more than enough of those.” Mr Liveris said. Mr Liveris referred to the Australian Institute of Criminology research that young people diverted from the court system were less likely to have further involvement in the criminal justice system. Mr Liveris noted the 2011 Review of Youth Justice in NT that recommended the need for more diversionary programs and increased eligibility for diversion in light of increasing rates of youth crime.
Law Society Northern Territory (Society) welcomes the Attorney-General's announcement this afternoon that the Solicitor-General, Michael Grant QC, will be the next Chief Justice of the Northern Territory.
Society President Mr Tass Liveris said, "Mr Grant is an exemplary appointment to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory and to the extremely important position of Chief Justice. Mr Grant was the first Territory-born practitioner to be appointed as Queen's Counsel and he is widely known and respected throughout the community as an advocate of the highest order. His wealth of experience across many roles will be an outstanding asset to the Court.".
On 31 March the Chief Magistrate announced the closure of the Mutitjulu Court.Read more
The Chief Magistrate Dr John Lowndes CSM, together with Law Society Northern Territory (Society) are hosting a public forum tomorrow, Thursday 24 March to raise awareness about, and promote a better understanding of the criminal justice process in relation to youth offenders.Read more