A Supreme Court judge has accused a law firm of turning a man's right to a fair trial into a political stoush, as an independent review is sought over a legal aid funding decision.
Yesterday, Justice Betty King took issue with Victoria Legal Aid's (VLA) decision to refuse funding for a second barrister for a man accused of attempted murder.
The man's solicitors were asked to request a review of VLA's decision.
Today, Justice King said the letter sent by the law firm to the VLA was "disgraceful".
"This is not a political issue as far as the court is concerned, this is the issue of the fairness of an accused person's trial," she said.
The court heard the letter did not request reconsideration for a second barrister, but rather made a political point over the VLA decision not to fund assisting solicitors for more than two half days of a trial.
The judge said is was frustrating to see people playing games with someone's right to a fair trial.
"I despair that we are going to get anywhere if this is the sort of attitude that is taken," she said.
The court was told the solicitors withdrew the letter late last night.
VLA will now be asked to appoint a retired judge to review the funding decision.
Judge King said tax payers money was being wasted.
"The loss of a day's court time in the Supreme Court would probably pay for the solicitor for a trial for a month," she said.
"Legal Aid is funded by the community, the Crown are funded by the community, the court is funded by the community and we are just in a position that it seems to me the community is suffering."
Last week, Victorian Attorney-General Robert Clark supported Legal Aid and its decision to restrict funding for criminal trials in the state.
He said taxpayers' money needed to be spent wisely and effectively.
Latest Top Stories Articles