Hundreds of domestic abuse victims could be missing out on getting protection orders because they are unable to get legal aid, Labour’s Justice spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says.
“In the last two years some 351 people who applied for legal aid for the purposes of getting a protection order, had their applications
“A protection order is one of the most basic tools we have available through our legal system to protect victims of violence.
“There is a reason people apply for legal aid – they personally can’t afford to pay legal fees. The main reason a person applies for a protection order is because they fear violence.
“The legal aid threshold is a difficult one. Equity in a home – and it may be in the home shared with the perpetrator of violence, could deem someone ineligible for assistance.
“If an applicant is not eligible for legal aid, they must cover the cost of accessing a lawyer themselves. Any suggestion that a protection order may not be accessible because legal aid has been denied is alarming.
“Family lawyers have been providing their services at cut rates to people applying for protection orders, while others are using graduates to keep the cost of processing as low as possible.
“Last year 3,307 people were granted a protection order. How many more would there be if getting one was easier?
“New Zealanders frequently express distress over our high rate of domestic and family violence. The Minister has said that family and domestic violence is a priority and we welcome the opportunity to work with her to address issues such as this.
“However a protection order cannot protect if victims can’t access them in the first place.”