Is justice out of reach for ordinary Australians?
In the West Australian on 25th October 2012 Chief Justice Wayne Martin likened Australia’s legal system to a Rolls Royce arguing it was accessible to big business, the very wealthy and a small group who could obtain legal aid.
In a speech Supreme Court Chief Justice said “it is the Rolls-Royce of justice systems but there is not much point of having a Rolls Royce in the garage if you can’t afford the fuel to drive it anywhere."
He told the delegates at the Community Legal Centres Association annual conference in Perth that “the hard reality is that the cost of legal representation is beyond the reach of many, probably, most Australians. They can and should take pride in the fact that Australia has a very good legal system provided by judges and magistrates who are independent of executive government and in which corruption is virtually unknown.”
These comments by WA’s top judge would tend to support, why in respect of compensation claims for property interests, affected owners do not seek a legal outcome. It is also why the government can settle claims closer to their assessments than that of the affected owners. This is because no independent adjudication occurs. A cynic would say that the government has no motivation to reduce the cost of litigation. If more legal challenges were made, to compensation offers, maybe a fairer outcome to owners would result, at more cost to Government. They would prefer to keep the ‘status quo’.
A recent compensation case we are aware of, involved the reservation of private land in Southern River, to protect the environment (wetland and bush) was finally settled in mediation. The owner obtained legal representation to advocate for her claim for around $5million. The claim had strong support from expert environmental advice, from both sides, valuation advice and legal. Unfortunately the owner could not afford the legal fees of taking the matter to Hearing and as a result was forced to settle the matter at around $2million.
We at WA Land Compensation WA share the views of the Chief Justice and although not solicitors, are trying to fill the void in the Judicial system. We represent not only the Rolls Royces’ but more importantly also the Holden Utes . We try to structure our fees, so that the right to justice is available to all ordinary Australians.