There is no formal provision in New Zealand for legal aid in civil cases. The Legal Aid Act of 1939 authorised regulations setting up a legal-aid scheme, but none have been made. In 1952 the New Zealand Law Society undertook to see that no one with a good case was denied access to the Courts because of lack of means. This did little more than formalise a long-standing tradition of the legal profession. In practice a person seeking assistance applies to the District Law Society, which looks into the case and the applicant's means and arranges for a lawyer to act for him where appropriate. The situation is not wholly satisfactory for various reasons. Sooner or later some form of payment by the State appears inevitable. There are, however, many advantages in keeping the administration of legal aid as much as possible in the hands of the profession.
In criminal cases legal aid may be granted by the Court. Counsel is assigned from a list of available lawyers and is paid by the State at the same rate as if he had appeared for the prosecution.
by Bruce James Cameron, B.A., LL.M., Legal Adviser, Department of Justice, Wellington.
- New Zealand, the Development of its Laws and Constitution, ed. Robson, J. L. (1954)
- The Constitution of New Zealand, Scott, K. J. (1962).