Justice has been struck a serious blow with cuts to Victorian Legal Aid services.
Stricter eligibility requirements will mean many miss out on the legal support they need to access a fair hearing, when demand is at its highest.
Already I have seen larger numbers of people forced to represent themselves because they don’t qualify for Legal Aid funding and the duty solicitor is so snowed under they have to prioritise.
These people are fish out of water in a historical building with strange formalities to acknowledge and a complicated language to decode.
But the changes will affect the whole of Bendigo’s court system.
Duty solicitors have a long line out their door already and the resulting situation is frustrating for everyone.
Police prosecutors are left waiting for cases to come on, court clerks are busy trying to sort our appearances, and magistrates are impatient with defendants who don’t know what an adjournment is, let alone how to apply for one.
In some cases people spend all day waiting to speak to a duty solicitor only to be told their matter can’t be reached by the court and they will have to come back next month.
The result is cases are delayed, time is wasted and justice is not served.
I applaud the government for spending money on more police and child protection workers. But there is no point if the increase in services is not extended to when these alleged offenders arrive in court.