Legal Aid ordered to front court over 'fair trial' worry

A judge has ordered a representative of Victoria Legal Aid to attend court to explain why funding for an instructing solicitor has been refused for a defendant in an attempted murder case.

A criminal trial surrounding the matter was expected to begin before Justice Betty King next week, but on Tuesday morning, the accused man's defence barrister applied for the case to be stayed on the basis funding for a solicitor for the duration of the trial had been refused.

He argued his client could not get a fair trial in the circumstances.

The lawyer told the judge after funding for an instructing solicitor was knocked back, an application for an additional barrister had been requested, but was also knocked back.

The judge expressed frustration that Legal Aid had not attended the hearing, despite being aware it was taking place.

Justice King stood the matter down so she could "ask that they provide someone immediately to answer to the court".

The judge was told Legal Aid had refused to fund another lawyer because the case was not considered "complex" enough to warrant extra help. Nor was the defendant intellectually or psychiatrically impaired or a minor, therefore the accused man did not meet Legal Aid's new guidelines for funding an instructing solicitor for any longer than two half-days of a trial.

The changed guidelines are the result of significant funding cuts to Legal Aid.

This is the third case in the Supreme Court in recent weeks which has been delayed due to the Legal Aid funding crisis.

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