New funding reverses justice cuts from last year
Justice Minister Darin King released a pair of independent reports to the media this morning, and announced $13.5 million to fix problems in the Legal Aid Commisssion and the Sheriff’s Office.
— Photo by James Mcleod
On the Sherrif’s Office side, especially, the independent review found significant problems — morale is low, there aren’t enough sheriff’s officers, the chain of command is incomplete and security needs to be improved.
On the Legal Aid Commission side, lawyer John Roil recommended changes to the management structure and some of the legislation around legal aid, but didn’t specifically recommend more funding or extra lawyers.
Roil found that the workload at the Legal and that there’s a total misconception that lawyers there are less qualified than private practice. In fact, he recommended that the government change legislation to limit the ability of people to seek private lawyers at Legal Aid rates, because it creates the false impression that legal aid lawyers aren’t good enough.
The two reports released today grew out of widespread outcry within the legal community last spring; the provincial government delivered deep cuts in the 2013 budget, and King ordered the reviews to determine whether the cuts had been too deep.
Many of the recommendations in the two reports focus on improving the management structures and streamlining work processes, but with the Sheriff’s Office especially, retired RCMP Insp. Leigh DesRoches concluded that the system needs more people.
In total, he calls for 20 more people in the system. Current court security staff has a total of 76 people — 52 permanent, 12 unfunded long-term temporary and 12 on-call workers. DesRoches says that to properly staff the system, they need 85 permanent workers and 11 on-call people.
DesRoches also did a separate security risk assessment, with specific recommendations for the government, but that report is being kept secret due to security concerns.
King announced that the government has accepted all of the recommendations from both reports.