The Tasmanian Government says it will act on costs for people on low incomes to get details of their criminal and traffic offences which lawyers say are prohibitive.
The Law Society of Tasmania and Women’s Legal Service have supported calls from the Australian Lawyers Alliance for the $53.90 charge for statements and evidence to be scrapped.
Women’s Legal Service chief executive Susan Fahey said the statements were an essential part of court proceedings, they should be free and made available promptly.
“For many people it is cost prohibitive,” Ms Fahey said.
“The delays we have experienced in receiving disclosure have resulted in multiple adjournments of court dates leaving our clients in limbo and a significant cost in wasted court time and resources.
“This has happened in the North West where there is only a person employed part time to provide the statements.”
Law Society President Evan Hughes said the fee was charged for each case a person faced.
“For example, if someone has a speeding case, a trespass case and a stealing case they may be charged that fee three times,” Mr Hughes said.
“This cost can be a real problem for people on low incomes who are not eligible for legal aid.
“Providing evidence at an early stage and without charge is more efficient. It helps lawyers and unrepresented people identify the issues and resolve cases at an earlier stage. Lack of money should not create a disadvantage before the law.”
Mr Hughes said a bill had been developed for more than 10 years to address disclosure issues and other efficiency factors in the magistrates court.
A government spokesperson said the Tasmanian Government was already developing laws on the matter.
“It is part of a broader project to overhaul the criminal jurisdiction of the Magistrates Court,” she said.
“It has been a significant undertaking but the bill is well advanced.”