VICTORIAN Legal Aid barristers who argue their clients’ cases every week in Portland Magistrates’ Court will learn this week just how severely the VLA’s looming budget crisis will impact their ability to assist local defendants.
Victoria Legal Aid reported a $3.1 million deficit for 2011-12 after two years of surplus. An extraordinary meeting of lawyers has condemned proposed cuts to legal representation as a result of funding pressures on VLA, which has advised the Law Institute of Victoria that it is facing a budget blow-out and will have to consider cuts throughout the state.
A VLA spokeswoman confirmed the board will meet this week and “will consider the full range of options,” one of which could be substantial funding cuts that would include the south-west.
“This is across all our services,” spokeswoman Slavka Scott said, “including criminal law, civil law and family law.”
On a typical Monday session of the Portland Magistrates’ Court, more than half the defendants are represented by attorneys who are funded through VLA.
Barristers and solicitors at the Law Institute are campaigning to oppose any proposed cuts.
Read more in Friday’s Portland Observer.