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LawRight hits pause on Magistrates Court service

A service providing free access to justice for disadvantaged self-represented litigants in the Queensland Magistrates Court has been suspended due to a lack of funding.

Popular pro bono community legal service LawRight yesterday announced it had “regrettably” paused the service due to insufficient funds.

LawRight – which has been providing free legal assistance to the state’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged for more than 21 years – has provided access to justice to more than 20,000 people since its inception.

LawRight – in its July 2022 newsletter released yesterday – said: “Regrettably, we have paused our service to self-represented litigants in the Magistrates Court, due to insufficient funds.”

“The Magistrates Court service commenced in July 2021 and assisted 86 clients with over 220 advice sessions or task assistance to progress their matters, resolve their disputes, and navigate their proceedings more effectively.

“Proceedings in this jurisdiction can be just as legally complex as they are in the higher courts.

“Litigants still face the potentially ruinous impact of adverse decisions, the potential for costs orders for failing to understand process and procedures, and the stress and difficulty involved in navigating our legal system. However, the most vulnerable litigants in this court don’t have access to legal advice or representation for their civil law matters.

“Despite this need we decided to pause the Magistrates Court service at the end of June, due to insufficient funds.

“We will continue to assist existing clients where possible but will not intake new clients until we review this decision in January 2023.”

LawRight – which generates donations via its annual Queensland Legal Walk – will hold another popular fundraiser later this month with the ‘Red Wine for Justice’ gala event scheduled for Friday 29 July.

The 2019 event was generously hosted by Herbert Smith Freehills, and the wines donated for drinking and auction fuelled some excited bidding, with over $47,000 raised for LawRight. The proposed 2021 event was suspended due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

This year’s auction will include a chance for people to bid on opportunities to break bread or taste quality baked goods with eminent former Supreme Court judges.

One is a picnic for eight with LawRight President and former judge, the Honourable Roslyn Atkinson AO, and former solicitor-turned-Supreme Court Senior Judge Administrator Ann Lyons.

The other is an auction for a high tea for five with former Court of Appeal President and current Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce chair, the Honourable Margaret McMurdo AC, and Queensland’s first woman Supreme Court judge appointed in April 1992, the Honourable Margaret White AO.

Tickets and event details for ‘Red Wine for Justice’ are now available.

LawRight yesterday also put a call out for assistance from the legal profession in its search for new premises in Brisbane’s CBD after ending its current lease.

“The Queensland Law Society has been our landlord since July 2017 but the lease has now ended and we are looking for new premises near the CBD,” the newsletter said.

“If you can assist our search in any way, please contact Joint Director Linda Macpherson – linda.macpherson@lawright.org.au – for our rental specifications.”

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