Crown solicitors have vented their frustration with funding cuts for prosecutions, including reporting they can be paid more to prosecute dog owners than murderers, says Labour’s Shadow Attorney-General David Parker.
“A Crown Law memo to the Attorney-General Chris Finlayson outlines a litany of concerns from solicitors for an agency that has faced ruthless cuts to its funding. The funding cuts were intended to average 25 per cent, and were predicted to be as high as 40 per cent for some firms.
“The documents obtained under the Official Information Act recorded one Crown solicitor stating the local Council paid a higher hourly rate to prosecute dangerous dog owners that the Crown did to prosecute murderers and that this likely not uncommon across the country. That’s astounding.
“One of the foremost duties of any government is to protect its citizens, including by enforcing the criminal law through prosecutions of criminals through the Courts. Crown lawyers have to be adequately funded in order to do that job properly.
“The memo contains other examples from solicitors:
Solicitors have retired their Crown warrant because of low fees.
Firms are unable to retain senior staff and struggling to recruit new people.
One solicitor said his office had cancelled the cleaning contract just to make ends meet.
The difference for one firm between being viable or not was changing the office lease.
Solicitors are seriously concerned about losing overworked staff to commercial law firms.
Concerns pressure will lead to mistakes by junior prosecutors.
“This prosecution system is clearly under extreme pressure. Legal counsel for accused criminals have told me their clients are pleading guilty to reduced charges,” says David Parker.