Lawyers lambast $43.1m cut

TASMANIA'S lawyers have excoriated the federal government for ripping $43.1 million from free legal services.

The Coalition announced the cuts this week, saying the money would go to bolstering the budget over four years.

But critics said the cuts created a "false economy" as a growing number of people were forced to represent themselves in court.

Court proceedings are then bogged down and costs blow out.

The government said the cuts wouldn't affect front-line services but the legal fraternity is sceptical. Women's Legal Service Tasmania's chief executive Susan Fahey, whose sector faces a $19.1 million cut, said services were already stretched.

Her centre runs on a core funding of $210,000 a year and provides free legal services to often vulnerable and disadvantaged women.

Ms Fahey is expecting the first wave of cuts totalling $4 million to take effect in July 2015.

"We provide very critical early intervention before it becomes a big legal problem, that saves the community a lot of money," she said.

The Law Society of Tasmania condemned the cuts, saying the state's Legal Aid Commission's budget was already in crisis.

Earlier this year, the commission tightened its funding protocol, after a budget blowout, for mainly Commonwealth matters.

It won't fund lawyers for family law matters unless the other party has one.

"If the legal aid commission itself was to suffer (cuts) it will compound this situation and we'll have very many more people without a lawyer in Commonwealth matters," society president Anthony Mihal said.

Mr Mihal feared Tasmania could follow Victoria where victims of family violence have been cross-examined by perpetrators because nobody has a lawyer.

"There is great potential for that to happen here," he said.

Nationwide, legal aid commissions are expected to lose $6.5 million, however it is not known which states will be targeted.

Aboriginal legal centres and the Family Violence Prevention Legal Services will bear the brunt of the rest of the funding cuts.

Mr Mihal said the closure of Tasmania's Aboriginal legal service would put huge financial pressure on the commission.

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