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Media release: Help for defendants in domestic violence proceedings

9 Nov 2011

A new service at Mt Druitt Local Court will provide advice and assistance to defendants, who would otherwise have to represent themselves in domestic violence proceedings.

Help for defendants in domestic violence proceedings
The Apprehended Violence Order duty representation service will help defendants achieve workable orders and could help prevent future problems.

As legal aid is not usually available to defendants unless there are related criminal charges, this particular group of court users does not usually have the benefit of representation by a lawyer in negotiating workable orders.

“This has been a missed opportunity to intervene early with a group of people who are at high risk of offending,” says Acting CEO of Legal Aid NSW, Richard Funston. “Timely legal services such as this pilot can help to limit offending behaviour and related legal problems to the benefit of all parties.”

Under the pilot, an experienced Legal Aid duty lawyer will help people at court if they satisfy the means test. The duty lawyer will work with family lawyers in order to work out how defendants can see their children when it is in the best interests of the children to have contact with their fathers. They will also work closely with civil lawyers so they can deal with debt and housing issues that often come up at the same time. The duty lawyer will also be able to help establish contact with other social support agencies that provide crisis accommodation and counselling.

The new service begins on 28 November 2011. It is being trialled at Mt Druitt based on Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research data showing high rates of domestic violence applications in outer and south Western Sydney.

Media Contact: Jane Pritchard, Legal Aid NSW    0418 215 715