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Preferred supplier newsletter—February 2020

This month:

Who can do legal aid work

Legal Aid Queensland enters into agreements with legal practitioners to meet its obligations under a legal assistance arrangement pursuant to section 46 of the Legal Aid Queensland Act. The agreements are between LAQ and a practice operating at a specified location and it is the principal, partners or directors of the firm that are responsible for ensuring the legal aid work performed by their firm complies with the firm’s obligations under the agreement.

Where a preferred supplier performs legal aid work through a solicitor, law clerk or paralegal employed by their firm, the preferred supplier must ensure the relevant person has appropriate and relevant experience and competence in relation to the type of work to be performed.

All solicitors undertaking work on legal aid files must hold a current practising certificate. The work to be undertaken by a lawyer is not to be delegated to a law clerk or paralegal.

Under the agreement, preferred suppliers must also have in place and maintain an adequate supervisory program. A positive duty to ensure “reasonable supervision” is also required pursuant to rule 37 of the Australian Solicitors Conduct Rules 2012. The Queensland Law Society has many resources available in relation to supervision including:

The preferred supplier agreement also addresses the circumstances in which an agent can be engaged:

  • Clause 4.15 of the agreement sets out the requirements for use of an agent where the legal aid work to be performed requires attendance at a place other than the city or town where the preferred supplier’s offices are located.
  • Clause 4.16 sets out the requirements for use of an agent where there is an unexpected and unavoidable professional or personal commitment or emergency and all relevant persons of the preferred supplier are unable to attend to the matter. Best endeavours must be used to engage a practitioner of a legal practice that is included on the relevant preferred supplier panel. The practitioner engaged must have appropriate and relevant experience and competence in the type of work to be performed, hold a current practising certificate allowing them to lawfully practice in Queensland and hold or be covered by professional indemnity insurance. In these instances, the preferred supplier still retains responsibility for the matter and is to conduct the majority of the work in relation to the matter.

These arrangements provide Legal Aid Queensland with certainty about the performance of legal aid work, maximise the quality of legal assistance services purchased by Legal Aid Queensland and ensure that service delivery practices are carried out in accordance with the practice and case management standards.

Family Court and Federal Circuit Court Practice Direction

The Chief Justice of the Family Court and the Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit Court recently issued a Joint Practice Direction which set out the 10 core principles that underpin the exercise of the family law jurisdiction of the courts. All steps taken in proceedings before the courts, including commencement of proceedings, should follow these principles.

View the Practice Direction here.

LAQ’s case management and practice management standards and best practice guidelines for working with clients who have been affected by domestic violence will assist practitioners to follow the core principles outlined in the practice direction.

Court of Appeal judgment of R v CCJ [2019] QCA 236

The judgment delivered in late 2019 is an important reminder for practitioners to be alert to the issues of client fitness. The decision considered the “Presser criteria” - a reference to R v Presser where Smith J explained the criteria for consideration of fitness for trial. The appellant CCJ, was the subject of expert psychiatric opinions received towards the expiration of his sentence and as part of an application pursuant to the Dangerous Prisoners (Sexual Offences) Act. The opinions found that CCJ had been permanently unfit for trial for a considerable period of time and was unfit for trial at the time of the index offences.

The judgment can be viewed here.

Magistrates Court diversion programs

Court Link is an integrated court assessment, referral and support program. Court Link assists participants by connecting them with treatment and support services to address housing, employment, drug and alcohol, health and other social needs. Court Link’s purpose is to provide support and assistance to people in line with their risk of re-offending, their needs, and their ability and willingness to receive help. Court Link is available in Brisbane, Cairns, Ipswich, Southport, Caboolture, Redcliffe and Maroochydore.

A Drug and Alcohol Assessment Referral course is available to defendants who identify substance use as a contributing factor in their offending behaviour but who may not be drug and/or alcohol dependent. During the course, drug and/or alcohol use is assessed, and participants receive counselling and education about the use of drugs and alcohol. If a participant is assessed as drug and/or alcohol dependent, the course provider can refer them to more intensive treatment and support. The course is imposed as a condition of bail or recognisance order.

CPD events

Please refer to the For Lawyers section of the Legal Aid Queensland website for up and coming CPD events.

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