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Head Note December 2013

Fee increases for lawyers

Legal Aid Queensland has increased a range of fees paid to solicitors and barristers for criminal law and child protection matters. As a red tape reduction initiative, LAQ has also introduced a flat fee for pleas of guilty in magistrates and childrens courts.

The following changes to criminal law fees are effective from 16 December 2013:

  • District and Childrens Court of Queensland stage two trial standard preparation fee grants will double from $232 to $464 for solicitors and increase from $185 to $370 for counsel.
  • To reduce red tape and streamline the administration of grants of aid, we will be implementing a single application process for summary matters. Under the new process, the initial fee will be a fixed fee of $575. Additional fees will be available for matters approved for trial funding.
  • Summary trial standard preparation fees will increase by 24 percent for solicitor only trials, by seven percent for solicitors where counsel is briefed for trial, and by 35 percent for counsel.
  • The magistrates and childrens court pleas of guilty fixed fee will be set at $575. Additional grants will continue to be available for:
    • matters involving more than 20 charges
    • interpreters
    • approved travel
    • approved reports.

The Legal Aid Queensland Board has also approved a five percent increase in child protection fees, effective from 13 January 2014. Fees will increase from $120 an hour to $126 an hour bringing them in line with the current family law fees.

The latest fee increases follow similar increases for duty lawyers, domestic violence and family law introduced since July 2012. The recent changes to criminal law fees followed the feedback received from an LAQ consultation paper earlier this year.

A priority for LAQ is to reward our preferred suppliers with further fee increases when possible with available funding.

 


Bundaberg Referral Pathways for Legal Advice Program launch 

The successful Referral Pathways for Legal Advice Program has been extended to Bundaberg, making it the fifth region to implement the program since its first launch in Brisbane in 2008.

The program involves Legal Aid Queensland partnering with key support agencies in the local community to provide priority access to legal aid services for vulnerable clients. These are clients who may not seek assistance on their own due to a number of factors, including cultural differences, language barriers, cognitive impairment, or in the case of domestic violence victims — fear of a partner or ex-partner.

Launched on 26 November, the Bundaberg program will improve referral arrangements between Legal Aid Queensland’s Bundaberg office, Centrelink, Department of Communities (Child Safety), EDON Place Women's Domestic Violence Service, Bundaberg Family Relationship Centre and Relationships Australia.

The Referral Pathways for Legal Advice Program is operating in Brisbane, Ipswich, the Gold Coast and Toowoomba. Since 2008, more than 800 vulnerable clients have been provided with legal advice through a supported referral process with key agency partners in each region.


Dispute resolution conferencing services expanded 

The Legal Aid Queensland Board has approved the establishment of a Family Early Dispute Resolution pilot, expanding the organisation’s family law conferencing program by 75 conferences each month.

From 25 November, the pilot will focus on making conferences available for vulnerable clients at the early stages of a dispute about a substantial issue where there is a genuine need for orders to provide some certainty about ongoing parenting arrangements. For example this may include:

  • grandparents or extended family matters who have children in their care and need orders in place to give them the parental authority needed to care for the children
  • alleged domestic violence victims who have fled their former matrimonial home (with or without children) and have no contact with the other party due to the nature of the relationship and the risks involved; in these circumstances there may be a very real need for orders to regulate the children's arrangements and minimise ongoing violence, conflict and control
  • recently separated parties (six weeks plus) who are seeking to regularise arrangements before escalating issues.

The Family Law Conferencing Program will continue to target clients for which lawyer assisted mediation is required, and other Commonwealth funded non-lawyer assisted mediation services remain available through other organisations.


CLE Collaboration Fund continues to reach Queensland communities 

Legal Aid Queensland’s Community Legal Education (CLE) Collaboration Fund Round 2 projects were recently completed, delivering 28 CLE sessions to 1155 people. Projects also developed 42 new resources and updated 21 existing factsheets. The fund provides grants to community legal centres and Regional Legal Assistance Forums to undertake collaborative CLE projects which respond to community needs

Round 2 highlights included:

  • Personal Injury Self Help Kit (Suncoast Community Legal Service)
  • an Indigenous child protection DVD (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service)
  • seniors legal issues CLE sessions (Queensland Public Interest Law Clearing House and Caxton Legal Centre).

This funding round delivered important legal education to young parents, disadvantaged youth, Indigenous communities, self-represented civil litigants, people experiencing issues with their phone or utilities providers, and other key audiences.

We will be calling for applications for the CLE Collaboration Fund's third funding round in March 2014.


LAQ/QCOSS child protection information forum 

Legal Aid Queensland recently partnered with the Queensland Council of Social Service (QCOSS) to hold a child protection information forum for community workers. The forum featured presentations from Legal Aid Queensland, CREATE Foundation, Indigenous Family and Child Support Service, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service on key aspects of the child protection system, including family group meetings, intervention with parental agreement and the role of Recognised Entities. We were grateful two CREATE young consultants were able to join us and share their experiences of being in care.

The video of this forum will be added to Legal Aid Queensland's YouTube channel in the near future.

We plan to hold two LAQ/QCOSS forums in 2014 and will promote these forums once dates and forum topics are finalised.


Helping vulnerable people access justice 

John* suffers from a mild intellectual disability. He went to Company A to buy a computer. He made it clear he wanted to buy the computer. He could not buy it outright but understood he was entering into a contract where he would be repaying the cost of the computer over three years. He understood this meant he would be paying more than the computer was worth as it costs more to buy over time.

Instead of entering John into a simple contract that he understood, Company A entered John into a consumer lease. Under the consumer lease, John would never own the computer and the lease also included a term that if he did not tell Company A he wanted to end the lease within three months of the three year lease running out, the lease would automatically renew every three months.

When John asked Legal Aid Queensland for help, he had been making lease payments for more than five years and could not understand why he did not own the computer yet.

With Legal Aid Queensland's help in using the unfair contract terms provisions of the Australian Consumer Law, John received a refund of the payments he had made and was able to keep the computer in line with the basic contract he had asked Company A for and that he had understood that he was entering into.

John subsequently wrote to Legal Aid Queensland expressing his thanks for the assistance provided to him, saying "thank you very much for your time, effort and your help to settle this matter with them. I am guessing now I have nothing to do with them anymore which is great for me because I don't want anything to do with them anymore".

*not his real name


Ipswich office relocation 

Legal Aid Queensland's Ipswich office has now relocated to the Icon Ipswich tower, Level 7, 117 Brisbane Street, Ipswich.

“Our new Legal Aid office is conveniently located in the centre of the Ipswich CBD, close to the courthouse and other amenities,” Ipswich office principal solicitor Alexis Oxley said.

“It also has improved interview facilities for clients and staff.”

Ms Oxley said people can visit the Ipswich office for face-to-face legal help or call Legal Aid Queensland on 1300 65 11 88 (for the cost of a local call from a landline in Australia) to access legal information by phone.

The postal address, phone and fax numbers for the Ipswich office remain the same.


 Updated publications 

The following publications have been updated since our October 2013 Head Note:

Brochures:

  • Our legal system – Information for Women (Arabic, Dari, Mandarin, Tagalog and Vietnamese)

Factsheets:

  • How do I get a domestic violence protection order?

Pocket packs

  • What are my rights if I want to separate from my partner?
  • What are my rights if I want to separate from my partner? (Arabic, Dari, Mandarin, Tagalog and Vietnamese)

Wallet cards:

  • Legal Aid Queensland (1300 65 11 88)

To order publications, please email publications@legalaid.qld.gov.au

 

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