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Attorney-General raises contingency fees

Briefs

Cite as: March 2015 89 (3) LIJ, p.12

Victorian Attorney-General Martin Pakula gave a wide-ranging address at the LIV's 2015 Conference of Council, the annual event when issues at the forefront of the legal profession and justice system are examined. 

Contingency fees would be explored as an option for lawyers, Mr Pakula told attendees at the February event.

“We are very interested in this issue . . . it’s not uncontroversial. It’s not a done deal, but I am very keen to engage on it. I want Victoria to be the jurisdiction of choice for those who want to resolve disputes quickly, fairly and efficiently,” Mr Pakula said.

“There are law firms and plaintiffs which could benefit greatly from this change. I know there are some litigation funders which would probably be quite unhappy, but we are not here for the benefit of litigation funders, it should not be our overriding consideration.”

Mr Pakula said the government’s “equality agenda” had amended “draconian” move-on laws and will review the Adoption Act with a view to legalising adoption by same-sex couples. It will repeal s19A of the Crimes Act 1958 which criminalises intentional transmission of the HIV virus.

It will also review the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities, reinstate the inherent requirements test into the Equal Opportunity Act, and a new jury directions Bill will be before Parliament this year.

While the government was on the front foot with a raft of issues, it would take a more measured approach to any sentencing reform. The impact of the abolition of suspended sentences and of baseline sentencing was yet to be felt on the corrections system.

“We are obliged as a government to sit back and analyse the effect of those changes, including the way parole and bail are working.”

The Royal Commission into Family Violence would have a positive impact on crime statistics due to the interwoven nature of family violence and crime.

Mr Pakula was pessimistic about increased federal funding for legal aid and hemorrhaging community legal centres.

“My job is to cajole, persuade and if necessary shame the federal Attorney-General to make sure the national partnership agreement is extended.”

Mr Pakula stressed the importance of the LIV’s voice in helping shape legislation and the justice system more generally. He said the LIV does “first-rate” work, was always informative and would be consulted before decisions were made. “I can assure you that the Attorney-General’s office will continue to value the contribution made by the LIV on the reform agenda, especially new ideas to improve access to justice.”

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