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In May 2020, Legal Aid Queensland (LAQ) welcomed the announcement of additional Commonwealth Government funding for the legal assistance sector nationally to support Australians impacted by COVID-19. This money will be used for frontline legal assistance service delivery and IT, with 40 percent of the frontline funding dedicated to domestic and family violence services.
The Commonwealth Government has also allocated funding to LAQ through the Bushfire Recovery Fund initiative for the delivery of legal assistance services to individuals, small business and farmers impacted by the 2019-20 bushfires. The funding has been allocated to LAQ to deliver the Queensland Bushfire Legal Help service. More information about this service is included in the newsletter.
Where a practitioner has obtained a psychiatrist’s report or other clinical report for a legally aided matter which potentially supports a referral to the Mental Health Court, they are requested to contact the Mental Health Court team of LAQ as soon as possible and prior to taking steps to refer the matter to the Mental Health Court.
References to the Mental Health Court on behalf of a legally aided client should generally only be made by the LAQ Mental Health Court team. If the practitioner considers that extra-ordinary circumstances exist, requiring a reference to be made by someone other than a lawyer in the Mental Health Court team, that practitioner should first contact the Mental Health Court team to discuss whether that course is appropriate.
Please email the Mental Health Court team or phone (07) 3917 0024.
There has been an increase of issues recently about conflicts of interest. A conflict of interest is where someone in a position of trust is serving or attempting to serve two or more interests and it would be difficult for that person to fulfil their duties impartially. A conflict of interest can exist even if no unethical or improper acts occur as a conflict of interest can be a potential or perceived conflict.
Conflict of interest can arise broadly where:
In these instances, a conflict of interest would arise as it is considered that the solicitor could not act in the best interests of their current or previous client as the solicitor may be able to obtain information which could promote one party's case to the detriment of the other.
There are some limited exceptions when a solicitor can represent any other party who has interests different to a current or previous client. These circumstances are when both parties:
In some cases, even if the above has been obtained a solicitor may still not be able to represent any other party due to the potential or perceived conflict of interest.
The conflict rules are established by the Australian Solicitors' Conduct Rules. Legal Aid Queensland solicitors and preferred suppliers are bound by these rules. Solicitors have a professional responsibility to ensure they do not represent a party where they may have a conflict of interest. Under section 1.3 of Legal Aid Queensland's practice management standards, preferred suppliers must ensure there is no conflict of interest when requesting or accepting a grant of aid. This is the solicitor’s responsibility. If a solicitor acts for a client where they have a conflict of interest the solicitor may be subject to disciplinary proceedings.
LAQ has also developed a conflict of interest policy relating to grants of aid for criminal law co-defendants.
The Lighthouse Project Pilot is a pilot in the Federal Circuit Court and the Family Court being trialled in Brisbane, Paramatta and Adelaide which involves:
The pilot is likely to begin in October 2020. Matters filed after the start date will be eligible for inclusion in the pilot. A party must complete the screening tool to be considered for the pilot. Parties cannot self-select into the pilot and only screening at the filing stage will allow a matter to be included.
Visit the Family Court website for more information .
Help LAQ’s Bushfire Legal Help program will provide legal help to bushfire-hit Queenslanders about:
Bushfire-affected Queenslanders needing legal help can call LAQ’s Disaster Helpline on 1300 527 700.
Read more about the Bushfire Legal Help program.
Principal child protection practitioners (PCPPs) are placed in family law court registries across Queensland. These positions fully began on 4 May 2020 and will run through until June 2022. The PCPPs will be co-located within the permanent court registries of Brisbane and Townsville, while the Cairns and Rockhampton jurisdictions will be serviced on a regular and as-needs basis.
The focus of the PCPPs will be to build relationships with the primary Family and Federal Circuit Court registries and Child Safety work groups (such as Court Services). They also intend to develop resources and systems to enhance information sharing processes and practices between these groups.
The purpose of these new roles will be to manage and lead the sharing of information between child safety and the family law courts to promote the safety, well-being and belonging of children and young people where both child protection and family law are involved with a family.
The civil law case management standards have been updated to include Section J: Acting in appeals to the General Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunals – Commonwealth Benefits
View the full copy of the civil law case management standards.
The information provided in the August newsletter setting out the circumstances in which firms can request a duty lawyer appear as an agent has been amended.
View the updated information
A new factsheet: Parenting arrangements and public health guidelines — what COVID-19 means for you and your children has been added to the Legal Aid Queensland website. All of our publications and education resources are free and can be viewed or ordered online.
Do you want to stay up to date with the latest LAQ news? Regularly check in with our Announcements page and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin.
We welcome feedback and comments from clients, community and our suppliers. As preferred suppliers you play an important role in helping us to provide quality legal services to disadvantaged Queenslanders. If you would like to provide comments or suggestions to us about our services, policies, processes or staff members, you can complete a contact form or email us any time.
Your feedback is important to us. We ensure a senior staff member investigates all issues thoroughly and analyse all feedback every quarter to see what processes and services can be improved.