Legal Aid 8% penalty rates the final blow to the poor buying justice in NZ


The lurch to how far right NZ has tacked is not apparent to most National party voters. Research shows 70% of National Party voters don’t know anyone unemployed, and that gated cultural perception means they are blinkered in their views to economic and social inequality.

This invisible economic and social inequality however is skyrocketing. We have the fastest rate of inequality growth in the OECD and 800 000 NZers living in poverty. This social imbalance rises while the Government dismantle as many democratic rights as they can.

The ratcheting up of powers by the NZ Police to spy, the massive ramping up of power to the GCSB to spy on NZers, removing the right of people to sue the Government for discrimination, the removal of Ecan, the removal of the right to protest at sea, new lowered thresholds to exclude people from welfare and the removal of prisoners ability to vote and restrictions to jury trials are all examples of a weakening of civil rights.

The latest measure however by the Government in terms of Legal Aid is a death blow to the poor in seeking justice from the courts in any way shape or form and will generated a culture of just pleading guilty regardless of your innocence.

What many do not realize is that Legal Aid is a loan. You have to pay it back and yesterday in Parliament, Andrew Little showed his tenacity by outing the Government on their new plans to charge 8% interest as a penalty on Legal Aid.

I think it’s an outrage that the Legal Aid is a loan and that its eligibility is set so low that anyone earning the minimum wage wouldn’t qualify. The thresholds should be significantly lifted and Legal Aid should be seen as a cost of a socially just society and not a user-pays loan.

Just think about what National are doing here. The poor who take Legal Aid so that they can defend themselves with the cheapest lawyer Legal Aid will pay for are of course going to have vast sums of money to pay back and now Judith Collins wants to add 8% penalty fees to those balances!

Let me guess, if you can’t pay the amounts, you get jail time? Surely not?

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The poor now face a life of poverty if they are brought before the Courts and many will simply choose to plead guilty rather than face a life of debt servitude.

We have the money to pay the richest NZers billions in tax cuts but won’t fund Legal Aid so that the poor can obtain Justice when the Police use their vast new spying powers to charge them?

Something has gone terribly wrong in NZ and that something is a neoliberal user pays culture that has sold out the values of universal funded processes that generated the protections a just society requires.

Meanwhile a taxpayer funded billionaires boat race with questionable economic returns keeps the sleepy hobbits entertained.


  1. Yes it’s totally wrong and perhaps another move to begin filling our private prisons guilty or not.
    This is another example of social injustice which is depressing our once proud and more just nation.

  2. I’d also be interested in what the penalty is, if a legal aid loan is unable to be paid because of hardship.

    With the GCSB spy laws laid open to all and sundry here and overseas, for governments and their dirty agencies to abuse at will or on a whim, we are all vulnerable to being classified criminals. None more so than the poor, who have little access to a decent defence, other than through legal aid! How fair is that? It’s not. Now the bully justice minister Collins and her cowardly cohort MPs want to penalize the helpless even more, by adding interest to their legal aid!

    The longer this government stays in power, the worse the situation for society’s dispossessed is going to get! And the longer Kiwis sit back ignoring the dark road this Key led coalition of the corrupt is taking NZ, the more ordinary Kiwis will become needy, vulnerable and sitting targets for the unscrupulous out there and believe me there are plenty, starting at government level!

    Vive la revolution!

  3. During my current & still impending Court dates yet to be advised, before there is a conclusion & end to the matter within Court(made possible by Legal Aid)…it would be nice to know I’m not fighting in vain for the protection of my girl, just to end up in JAIL for it!!!!!!! Feeling highly anxious now….Dam you Crusher Collins 🙁

  4. Thanks for catching up on this Martyn, as I have known of this for a long time. Sadly many in the public actually think it is all an “easy handout”. Those have the same irrational and wrong view on welfare payments, which are these days extremely hard to get.

    We are living in a society where you are stuffed and shat on when you have no money, no income and savings. You are crap as an ordinary employee, a beneficiary or else, you are a “sub human”, really, and that is how you get treated.

    I am furious about people in general though, as this is nothing new, and most are cowardly towing the line, do not challenge all this, and rather dish out against even worse off.

    I feel that most NZers are very prone to fascism, and they do actually behave like fascists, to seek to lay blame on others they do not even know, rather than to see the bigger picture.

    I will get up a few people’s nose with this assessment, but I have ample experience and stuff I could share, and it all proves what I say. If some want to take me on, I may well disclose all this, and it will not make the ones objecting any happier, I can assure you this.

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