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Counsel at early stages of committal proceedings

Assessment criteria

For legal aid to be granted to brief counsel in the early stages of a serious criminal law matter prior to the committal hearing the following tests must be satisfied:

  • the applicant has been provided aid for the substantive matter and the request meets the merits test, and
  • the matter is of public interest, or 
  • sufficient complexity to warrant representation by counsel because Legal Aid Queensland considers one or more of the following factors are present:
    • The gravity of the charge(s) requires counsel
    • The proper conduct of the case requires substantial cross-examination of numerous witnesses
    • Excessive resources have been utilised by the crown in the prosecution of the matter
    • There are numerous co-accused represented by different solicitors
    • There are children or special witnesses to be cross-examined
    • The admissibility of evidence is contested or matters of law will require significant and detailed legal argument
    • Expert evidence is relied upon to support the prosecution or defence case and significant examination or cross-examination of witnesses will be required.

Requirements

Extension of aid requests received from preferred suppliers or in-house practitioners

If a practitioner requires aid for counsel in the early stages of committal proceedings the practitioner must lodge an extension of aid request through the Grants Online system and advise how the matter meets the merits test and details of how the matter is of sufficient public interest or complexity which warrants counsel.

Interpretation

The gravity of the charge(s) requires counsel

With the exception of a charge of murder the gravity of charges alone would generally not be considered as sufficient to warrant the funding of counsel.

The proper conduct of the case requires substantial cross-examination of numerous witnesses

The fact that there are numerous witnesses in a matter is not sufficient to warrant funding in accordance with this guideline.

Funding for counsel at this stage of proceedings will be granted when Legal Aid Queensland considers that counsel is warranted due to one or more of the following:

  • counsel is required to read the brief to facilitate a disclosure request.
  • an opinion from counsel is required to determine which witnesses should be cross-examined.
  • counsel is required to identify the areas for cross-examination, the subject of an application to cross-examine and provide reasons to support the application.
  • counsel is required to approach the prosecution to try and obtain an agreement to cross-examine the witnesses.

Excessive resources have been utilised by the crown in the prosecution of the matter

Voluminous material in isolation is insufficient to warrant funding in accordance with this guideline. When seeking aid for counsel on the basis of this guideline, the practitioner must provide detailed information in relation to the nature of the material or details of the excessive resources that have been used by the crown to the assessing officer.

There are numerous co-accused represented by different solicitors

For the purpose of this guideline Legal Aid Queensland regards numerous co-accused as three or more however this in isolation would not be sufficient to warrant the funding of counsel.

There are children or special witnesses to be cross-examined

If children or special witnesses are to be cross-examined aid for counsel will be approved.

The admissibility of evidence is contested or matters of law will require significant and detailed legal argument

When seeking aid for counsel at this stage of proceedings, the practitioner must provide detailed information in this regard to the assessing officer. If it is determined that significant and detailed legal argument is required, aid for counsel will be provided.

Expert evidence is relied upon to support the prosecution or defence case and significant examination or cross-examination of witnesses will be required

For counsel to be funded at this stage of proceedings, Legal Aid Queensland will consider the nature of the expert witnesses and may consider funding counsel when:

  • counsel is required to ensure that full negotiations are carried out and full disclosure is obtained.
  • it is likely that the expert witness will be cross-examined by counsel at the committal due to the nature of the expert witness which requires counsel to be engaged at the early stages of proceedings to ensure there is a continuity between the negotiation stage and the formal application to cross-examine stage.

Grant(s) of aid

The grant of aid for counsel to be engage in the early stages of committal hearing is MR1A.

Extension(s) of aid

Extension of aid requests received from preferred suppliers or in-house practitioners

If a practitioner requires aid for counsel in the early stages of committal proceedings the practitioner must lodge an extension of aid request through the Grants Online system and advise how the matter meets the merits test and details of how the matter is of sufficient public interest or complexity which warrants counsel.

Review of decisions

A decision to refuse legal aid for this type of matter may be appealed to the external review officer (refer to review of decisions).

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