The Northern Territory Bar Association says the justice system will grind to a halt if Legal Aid does not receive increased funding.

The Legal Aid Commission says it can't fulfil its statutory obligations because it is not getting enough money from the Territory government.

In Melbourne this week, a double murder trial was put off, because Victoria's Legal Aid service could not provide the accused with a full-time lawyer because of funding constraints.

The NT Bar Association's John Lawrence, SC, says the Territory is heading in the same direction.

"The whole essence of Legal Aid is to make sure that everybody that is in need of legal representation obtains the same (treatment)," he said.

"They've managed to date to cover that, but there's just so much volume and so much complexity now that the actual funding needs to be re-visited and increased."

Mr Lawrence says the justice system does not work without legal aid.

"Without it, we don't have an adequate and proper and fair justice system.

"Without it, it doesn't exist.

"Against all odds, the Legal Aid Commission in this jurisdiction has managed to cover the field from A to Z on civil, family, criminal matters, but the volume is just ever increasing."

The NT Auditor-General's February report has found the Territory Legal Aid Commission has been operating in deficit for the past three years, and is predicted to add more than $600,000 to its debt this financial year.

The Commission has previously liquidated assets to finance its operations, but the Auditor-General has found this is unlikely to be an option for much longer.

In the report, the Legal Aid Commission says it is getting enough funding from the Commonwealth Government, but claims the Territory Government is not giving it the money it needs.

Megan Lawton from the Territory Law Society says Legal Aid could be forced to close its doors.

"Legal Aid spent two years in negotiations to arrive at its (NT) funding agreement and then, because of the elections, that agreement has not been signed off," she said.

"The future of Legal Aid funding is just up in the air.

"I think Territorians should be extremely worried that there won't be anyone there to catch them or to help them should they need to front up to the court."


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