The busiest court in the country is set in a location without its own criminal law firm, relying instead on the local community law centre.
Mangere has what Childrens’ Commissioner Andrew Becroft says is a ‘huge need’ for lawyers, but there is no firm in the area.Māngere Community Law Centre was the brainchild of a group of lawyers, including Andrew Becroft. who saw an unmet legal need in the community and helped set up the centre in 1986.
At law school, he had taken papers on access to justice and the role of law in the community, realising that in areas where lawyers were needed the most, they were least present.
He then went on a study exchange to Oregon, America, the “home of community law centres”, and realised the model could work in New Zealand.”It’s very hard for a traditional law firm to be profitable, which is why the community law centre model flourished throughout the western world as a matter of necessity,” he told Stuff.co.nz
“It would be wrong to be critical of lawyers who are not locating there [to Māngere], it’s a matter of economic reality.”
There are about 26 community law centres in New Zealand, funded with nearly $13 million.
Earlier this year, the Government announced an increase in community law funding of $9 million over the next four years.
And it’s something that is much needed, Community Law Centres o Aotearoa chief executive Sue Moroney says, noting that 53,000 people access the centres each year.