Law Society Supports Changes to Police Disclosure

The Law Society of Tasmania supports recent calls for reform in the area of fees charged by Tasmania Police for providing evidence to defendants facing charges in the Magistrates Court.

Under the current system a defendant receives limited information from police without paying a fee. When more information such as witness statements are needed, there is a one off $53.90 fee charged by Tasmania Police unless their case is funded by Legal Aid.

Law Society President Evan Hughes said: ‘That fee is charged for each case a person faces. For example, if someone has a speeding case, a trespass case and a stealing case they may be charged that fee three times. This cost can be a real problem for people on low incomes who are not eligible for legal aid. There are more people going through the court system and the limits on legal aid mean more of them have to pay for a private lawyer or represent themselves, and of course, pay this fee.

Providing evidence at an early stage and without charge is more efficient. It helps lawyers and unrepresented people identify the issues and resolve cases at an earlier stage. Lack of money should not create a disadvantage before the law.

The Magistrates Court (Criminal and General) draft bill which has been in development for over 10 years is designed to address disclosure issues and other efficiency factors in the Magistrates Court. It seems to be stalled. It is time to finally get this legislation on the table to deal with these issues.’

Evan Hughes
0418 321 146
5 November 2018