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Minister: Legal Aid costs slashed by half

Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney General (File photograph)

The Government has halved the cost of running the Legal Aid Office after introducing cost-cutting measures, the legal affairs minister has revealed.

Kathy Lynn Simmons, also the Attorney General, said the service had reduced its costs from $2.66 million in 2012/13 to $1.32 million last year.

She added the Legal Aid scheme, which provides legal representation for people who cannot afford it, now employed in-house lawyers rather than hiring private firms.

Ms Simmons added: “It is anticipated that when all posts are filled substantively, and with sufficient time for embedding the new model, sustainable cost reductions and greater operational efficiencies will continue, in keeping with the objectives of the model.

“The justification for implementing an in-house staff counsel model was in recognition that operational efficiencies and savings, institutional knowledge-building, and providing opportunities for a cadre of specialised Bermudian defence lawyers would offer better delivery of services within public spending limitations.

“This has resulted in a containment of costs.”

Ms Simmons was speaking in the House of Assembly yesterday as she presented the annual reports for the office from 2013-19.

Under the new arrangement, which was implemented in March 2019, three lawyers and three administrative staff now run the office.

Ms Simmons said the new model meant that a range of legal services could now be provided in-house rather than hiring outside lawyers.

She added: “Ongoing recruitment drives are under way to fill all posts substantively.

“In the interim, the legal aid office has been staffed temporarily by qualified barristers with the professional experience to manage the range and complexity of the typical case types where legal aid certificates are issued.”

Ms Simmons said the number of legal aid applications had fallen in the last seven years, but the workload of the office had increased, with a rise in counsel submissions, opinions, and requests for specialist reports.

She added: “I conclude by amplifying the chairman’s expressions of gratitude to the legal aid committee members for the selfless duty they uniquely give to the maintenance of access to justice in Bermuda.

“I am obliged to the chairman for his steady stewardship during reforms to the model. Thanks, also, to all of the public officers, staff, duty counsel, law pupils and others who have served to support the work of the Legal Aid office.”

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Published December 12, 2020 at 4:53 pm (Updated December 13, 2020 at 11:38 pm)

Minister: Legal Aid costs slashed by half

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