New information for those with matters in the District court
A new system is being rolled out for people who have charges in the Local and District courts – due to commence 30 April 2018
About the panel
The Early Appropriate Guilty Plea (EAGP) reform is expected to commence on 30 April 2018. The reform will result in a fundamental change to the way indictable criminal matters are dealt with in the Local Court.
The primary objective of the EAGP reform is to ensure that where a plea of guilty is appropriate, that plea is entered as early as possible, ideally in the Local Court. Mandatory sentencing discounts under the reform will incentivise the timing of the plea at an early stage.
Formal negotiations held with a view to encouraging early guilty pleas in appropriate cases will be facilitated by a mandatory case conferencing scheme at the Local Court stage.
There will be a significant change to the nature and extent of the work done by defence lawyers in indictable criminal matters at the Local Court stage. Further, there will be significant consequences for a client who is not adequately advised and represented at this stage of proceedings. As a result of the reform, Legal Aid NSW is establishing a new panel for solicitors who represent defendants in non-complex indictable criminal matters pursuant to a grant of legal aid.
This panel will apply to non-complex indictable matters in the following jurisdictions:
- Local Court Committals
- District Court Sentences
- District Court Trials
With the new panel being established, matters assigned to panel lawyers appointed to the General Criminal Law Panel (which will be renamed to the ‘Summary Criminal Law Panel’ will be limited to summary criminal matters and District Court appeals.
Matters falling within the definition of a complex criminal matter will continue to be assigned to panel solicitors appointed to the Serious Criminal Law Panel (which will be renamed to ‘Complex Criminal Law Solicitor Panel’).
A barrister may be briefed by a panel solicitor in appropriate matters subject to Legal Aid NSW policies and prior approval.
Counsel briefed to appear in a criminal matter at case conferencing will retain the matter for either sentence or trial once it is committed to the District Court.
Requests by solicitors to appear in District Court trials as Solicitor Advocate will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the Senior Grants Criminal Law Solicitor. In those circumstances, they will be required to address individual circumstances including their prior trial experience.
Grants of legal aid in criminal law matters
Appointment to the panel does not confer an entitlement to work. Grants are assigned in accordance with the Legal Aid NSW Grants Allocation Guidelines.
Only a very limited number of offers are made via Grants Online for the assignment of legal aid matters to panel lawyers. This is because most matters are allocated either to the Legal Aid NSW Criminal Law Division or the panel lawyer who submitted the legal aid application on behalf of the client.
Offers that are made via Grants Online are usually matters that are not able to be conducted by the Criminal Law Division and where the initial application was not submitted online by a panel lawyer.