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Policy Bulletin 1 / 18 (Civil Law Policy – Coronial Inquest Matters)

7 May 2018

On 2 May 2018 the Legal Aid NSW Board approved an amendment to the Civil Law Policy relating to Coronial Inquests.

8 May 2018

On 2 May 2018 the Legal Aid NSW Board approved an amendment to the Civil Law Policy relating to Coronial Inquests.

Background

The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody

In 1991, the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC) released its final report. It contained 339 recommendations, including Rec 23 concerning post-death investigations:

That the family of the deceased be entitled to legal representation at the inquest and that government pay the reasonable costs of such representation through legal aid schemes or otherwise.

In 2015, a Review of the Implementation of RCIADIC examined the extent to which the recommendations have been implemented. In relation to Rec 23, the Review noted that for NSW there is no provision for payment of legal fees under the Coroners Act 2009 (NSW), nor is there an entitlement to legal aid unless the eligibility criteria is met, which includes a ‘public interest’ test.

The Legal Aid NSW Board approved amending the policy to include a limb which makes it clear that legal aid is available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families in relation to any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander death in custody. The policy is intended to acknowledge the historical disadvantage and prejudices that Indigenous people have experienced, particularly within the criminal justice system; experiences which will often leave families feeling suspicious of the circumstances around deaths in custody.

What has changed?

Legal aid is available Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families in relation to any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander death in custody.

See Policy Online at 6.12.5

Commencement date

The change applies to applications for legal aid determined on or after 7 May 2018.

Contact for further information

Please contact the In-house Counsel Unit for any questions about the change on legalpolicy@legalaid.nsw.gov.au or contact Aideen McGarrigle on 9213 5701.