Go to content

Annual Report 2012 - 2013

Our services: a snapshot

This section provides a snapshot of our client services and statistics for 2012–2013.

Downing Centre

One of our teams at the Downing Centre Local Court, helping to make the court process less confusing and daunting for clients – lawyer Blake Cansdale and administrative staff Anisa Malhas and Rebecca Carlisle. Photo: Dani Pontes

Three-year comparison tables can be viewed in Appendix 7.

Details about our achievements in client service delivery are summarised in the Legal Aid NSW Plan and expanded upon in Section 1 of this report.

Information

Provided 633,743 information services, an increase of 4.0% on last year.

Our information services are free and can be accessed by the general community. Our staff can help with initial inquiries about legal problems and legal processes, and provide printed information to help clients understand their situation and the availability of legal aid. Our staff help clients work out what to do next and the best place to go if they need additional help.

Information over the phone is available through LawAccess NSW, a free legal information, referral and limited advice service administered by the NSW Department of Attorney General and Justice, and partly funded by Legal Aid NSW.

Publications and community legal education

Distributed 731,526 publications and provided 2,515 community legal education sessions (see Community legal education).

We provide free publications and legal education kits to help people in New South Wales to understand their legal rights and responsibilities.

Our resources are available on our website under Factsheets and Resources and can be ordered online at Publications/Order a publication.

We conduct legal education sessions at venues across the State. These can be tailored to suit the needs of particular groups.

Legal advice and minor assistance

Provided 128,719 advice and minor assistance services, an increase of 15.6% on last year.

Legal advice and minor assistance is available at no cost and is not means tested.

Our lawyers will help clients to identify their problem, inform them of their legal rights and obligations and help them to understand what course of action can be taken.

Lawyers may also draft letters or other documents for clients and make telephone calls on their behalf to help resolve their problem. We refer to this as minor assistance.

Duty lawyer services

Provided a total of 172,188 duty services (107,352 of these were provided inhouse and 64,836 were provided by private lawyers).

Legal Aid NSW provides lawyers in various courts and tribunals throughout New South Wales.

Duty lawyers provide advice and/or representation to disadvantaged people appearing before the Local and Children’s Courts on criminal charges. Some matters can be finalised on the first appearance. Otherwise the duty lawyer can seek an adjournment for further advice, to arrange a grant of aid or to allow time for further preparation.

A duty lawyer is provided to all people in custody for a first appearance bail application.

The duty lawyer service is free of charge.

Duty lawyer services are available for children and adults involved in care and protection matters at every specialist Children’s Court in New South Wales, and at many regional courts when they sit as Children’s Courts.

The duty lawyer acts for either the children or the parents (or other eligible adults) on the first day that the case is heard by the Magistrate and, wherever possible, applies for a grant of legal aid to continue to act as the lawyer for that client in the ongoing matter.

Legal Aid NSW also provides duty lawyer services for people with a mental illness, under the Mental Health Act 2007. Our Mental Health Advocacy Service provides duty services at the Mental Health Review Tribunal and at hospitals.

Legal Aid NSW also provides duty lawyer services for disadvantaged people involved in proceedings under the Family Law Act 1975(Cth) and child support legislation. These services are provided across the State in the Family and Federal Circuit Courts.

Legal representation

Provided representation in 38,000 matters (12,613 provided inhouse and 25,387 assigned to private lawyers).

Legal Aid NSW provides legal representation in criminal law, family law and civil law matters to people who meet eligibility tests. Our policies can be viewed on our website: www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au at For lawyers/Policy Online.

Clients can apply for a grant of legal aid through a Legal Aid NSW office or a private lawyer who will complete an online application, or by completing a paper application form. We operate a means test for grants of legal representation so that these services are targeted towards those who need them most. Most people granted legal aid are required to pay a contribution towards the costs of their legal representation.

For more information visit this part of our website: Get legal help/Apply for legal aid.

Youth hotline

Received 17,339 calls, providing legal advice to 6,905 young people, and minor assistance to 3,566.

Our telephone hotline, 1800 10 18 10, provides legal advice and information to young people under 18, and operates from 9am to midnight weekdays, with a 24-hour service on weekends and public holidays.

Many calls relate to the operation of the Young Offenders Act 1997 where, after legal advice, young people make admissions to police and are then given cautions or referred to youth justice conferences by police, rather than being charged with offences and brought before a court.

Family law conferences

Held 2,665 conferences, reaching full or partial settlement in 80.1% of matters (full table in Appendix 7).

We provide family dispute resolution (FDR) conferences in family law matters to facilitate the resolution of disputes at an early stage. Parties are given the opportunity to negotiate a settlement without the need to go to court. If a settlement is reached, consent orders may be drafted and filed in the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court.

FDR is also available for matters in late litigation. Before legal aid is granted for parties to be represented at a final hearing, if appropriate, the parties are referred to FDR.

Conferencing is available in care and protection matters in the State family law jurisdiction.

At least one of the parties must have a grant of legal aid before a conference is organised.

Specialist services

The Work and Development Order Service worked with external partners to help more than 6,952 clients clear $7.5 million of fines debt (see Reaching out to disadvantaged communities).

Our specialist services are staffed by experts in their field. Services include the:

  • Adult Drug Court Service
  • Child Support Service
  • Children’s Legal Service (criminal matters)
  • Client Assessment and Referral Unit
  • Commonwealth Crimes Unit
  • Coronial Inquest Unit
  • Early Intervention Unit (family law)
  • Homeless Legal Outreach Program
  • Mental Health Advocacy Service
  • Mortgage Hardship Service
  • Older Persons’ Legal and Education Program
  • Prisoners Legal Service
  • Sexual Assault Communications Privilege Service
  • Veterans’ Advocacy Service
  • Work and Development Order Service.