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Annual Report 2020 - 2021

Legislative compliance and fair processes

Full compliance with public interest disclosures

Legal Aid NSW has complied with our six-monthly reporting obligations under the Public Interest Disclosures Act 1994 (NSW).

There were no public interest disclosures made during this reporting period.

Significant judicial decisions relating to the Legal Aid Commission Act 1979 (NSW)

Under section 34B of the Legal Aid Commission Act 1979 (NSW), Legal Aid NSW has the power to require a legally aided person to provide security for the costs of providing legal services, by requesting an equitable charge over real property.

In February 2021, the Supreme Court of NSW made orders in a matter declaring that Legal Aid NSW holds an interest pursuant to a charge agreement over a legally assisted person’s property as security for payment of the total legal costs owed to Legal Aid NSW, under sections 36 and 46 of the Legal Aid Commission Act 1979 (NSW). The court also declared that if their property is sold, mortgaged, transferred or disposed of, or if they die, then Legal Aid NSW has the right to be repaid the full debt owed.

This decision is consistent with Legal Aid NSW policies and guidelines regarding contributions secured with charges over real property, in particular, that a legally aided person may be required to give a charge as a condition of the grant of legal aid.

Legislative amendments – assignment of work to private law practices

A major part of putting our clients at the centre of everything we do is making sure services provided by private lawyers are as good as they can be. This year we made some changes to sections 49 and 50 and repealed sections 51–52B of the Legal Aid Commission Act 1979 (NSW) to improve the quality of services provided by private lawyers.

Privacy

Legal Aid NSW manages personal information in accordance with its Privacy Management Plan. The plan explains how we manage personal information under the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998 (NSW) and the Health Records and Information Privacy Act 2002 (NSW).

Legal Aid NSW includes privacy notices on all application forms and other public documents, and provides advice and guidance to staff on dealing with privacy issues.

Following a review of the organisation’s compliance with privacy legislation, Legal Aid NSW released an updated Privacy Management Plan in April 2021. We also developed an interactive privacy training module which was mandatory for all staff.

This year we received one privacy complaint; however it was found that there was no breach of privacy legislation. We also managed four minor incident privacy breaches, which were effectively resolved.

Right to information

Legal Aid NSW adopts a proactive approach to the release of information where possible.

The full details of the applications we received under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW) (GIPA Act) are set out in Appendix 7. During the 2020–2021 reporting period we received 22 formal GIPA applications. Most of our applications were requests by individuals for their own information.

There was one application for internal review of a GIPA decision received in the 2020–2021 reporting period.

Year ahead iconThe year ahead

  • We will continue to review our compliance with the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW), the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998 (NSW) and the Health Records and Information Privacy Act 2002 (NSW) to ensure that we are meeting our statutory obligations.
  • We will develop a range of information resources to provide a first response to recurring legal issues.
  • We will continue to provide high-quality, engaging training to assist staff to better understand their obligations so that they can continue to provide informed services to clients.
  • We will continue to implement reforms to Legal Aid Review Committee processes to coincide with reforms to our triage and pathways to a grant of legal aid.