Go to content

Annual Report 2010 - 2011

Law reform

One of the corporate priorities of Legal Aid NSW is improving access to justice through reforms to the legal system.

Law reform submissions are an important way for Legal Aid NSW to contribute to the development of legal and public policy. They provide the opportunity to comment on how changes to the law or Government policies may impact on our clients, our resources or the functions of Legal Aid NSW. The day-to-day interaction of legal and non-legal staff with clients provides a unique perspective on likely impacts of law or policy reforms on our clients.

Legal Aid NSW played an important role in contributing to law reform in New South Wales and Australia. The Legal Policy Branch coordinated 36 submissions on law reform references, proposed legislation and reviews of legislation. See Appendix 8 for details.

Major achievements

Priority 2: Access to justice

The Children’s Legal Service and Legal Policy Branch commenced a law reform project with the aim of developing alternative options to custody for young people, in liaison with other areas of Government. The project includes contributing to NSW Police Force documents, training scripts and internal communications to promote the use of police discretion and the standardisation of admission requirements under the Young Offenders Act 1997; and preparing law reform papers on a number of issues that are having a particularly negative effect on the rates of young people on remand.

Legal Aid NSW contributed to the debate about bail reforms following the release of a Review of the Bail Act 1978 and an exposure draft of the Bail Bill 2010 by the Department of Justice and Attorney General in October 2010.

Our submission raised a number of concerns about the Bill, including its impact on the presumption of innocence and its restrictions on the right of bail review.

We provided submissions to a review of the penalty notice scheme being conducted by the NSW Law Reform Commission. Given that the penalty notice scheme has a disproportionately negative impact on the economically and socially disadvantaged people who are our client base, Legal Aid NSW was able to put together a strong submission based upon the practical experience of our lawyers.

Legal Aid NSW provided submissions to the NSW Law Reform Commission inquiry into the law and practice regulating what happens to people with a mental illness or a cognitive impairment, or both, who come before the criminal courts. A Legal Aid NSW reference group was established to draw upon the expertise of our staff to respond to the issues raised in the consultation papers. One of the principles underpinning our submission was that special provisions for people with cognitive and mental health impairments should operate across all tiers of the court system, and at every stage of proceedings.

See the Law reform section of this website for more submission information, submissions are grouped by year and can be found on the web pages for 2010 submissions and 2011 submisssions.

Planning ahead

Year ahead

Work with other government agencies to influence bail law reform and increased diversion of people from the criminal justice system, in particular, juveniles and people with mental and cognitive impairments.

Key challenge

To ensure that the contribution we make to law reform is as effective as possible, through a more structured approach and strategic direction.