The Legal Aid Review Panel has published a report on the Government’s proposals to reform Jersey’s Legal Aid system. The report highlights forthcoming Legal Aid Guidelines, which will define how the legal aid system operates. The Panel has recommended that, when the guidelines are drawn up, further consideration should be given to how the eligibility level for legal aid is set, and to allow an element of discretion for cases that fall outside the usual eligibility criteria.
The Draft Access to Justice (Jersey) Law is due to be debated by the States Assembly on 30th April. It aims to address and improve access to justice in Jersey by establishing a legislative basis for legal aid. The draft law would make the Judicial Greffier responsible for the administration of the Legal Aid Scheme, with a new Legal Aid Guidelines Committee to be established to assist and advise the Chief Minister in constructing the new Legal Aid Guidelines. The draft law itself is an enabling law, which sets out what the Guidelines must and may provide for, if the draft law is passed.
The Panel received eight submissions from relevant stakeholders and members of the public, and held four public hearings with the Bailiff of Jersey, the Law Society of Jersey, the Magistrate, and the Chief Minister. All evidence received has been published on the States Assembly website (statesassembly.gov.je), including copies of submissions, webcasts and transcripts of the public hearings.
Deputy Steve Ahier, Chairman of the Panel, commented "This was a complex review, and we have heard and received a variety of differing views and opinions on the draft law. In our report, we make a distinction between the enabling law which the States will be debating next week, and the Legal Aid guidelines which will be published further down the line.
The draft guidelines published alongside the draft law could result in fewer people qualifying for Legal Aid in the future. Based on the evidence we received, we have recommended that development of the final guidelines should include careful consideration of how the eligibility criteria for legal aid is set, and allow an element of discretion for cases that fall outside the usual eligibility criteria.”
Scrutiny Press Release.