Newsflash - Parole Board delays

LawRight State Courts office is grappling with a sudden rise in requests for assistance from individuals awaiting parole decisions. These individuals want help to commence a court application to force a decision from the Parole Board of Queensland. 

In the last three weeks, we have received 33 requests for assistance and have 20 clients waiting for appointments.  While we hope to develop pro bono and self-help resources for this cohort, we also support the concerns of the Prisoners’ Legal Service (PLS) who estimate that currently, no prisoners are having their parole applications considered within the mandatory statutory period of 150 days.

PLS says matters are taking up to 250 days at an estimated cost to the state of $3.9 million per month for the additional days applicants spend in prison. This does not including the social cost to the individual and community.

PLS suggest the driver of the delay is a backlog at the Parole Board caused by an increasing prison population. Read the PLS submission here.

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Last week we listed three LawRight projects which rely on your fundraising support at the Queensland Legal Walk. Here are two stories from these projects.

Beyond homelessness: Financial counsellor

At a glance: With a 12-month grant from Brisbane City Council, we employed a financial counsellor to help clients move beyond homelessness into financial strength, through our Community and Health Justice Partnerships. The financial counsellor asks clients:  What prevents you moving forward? Where do you want to go and how can you get there? and How can you stay in your new “place”?, empowering vulnerable people to participate in their own solutions and increase their options through accessing their legal rights.

The project is at the halfway mark but already we have assisted 45 clients intensively.  We want to keep our financial counsellor on the team for another year so she can keep helping people like Jackie.

Jackie's Story

Jackie is almost 70 and after years of employment as an articulate professional she should be relaxing in the home she and her late husband built 40 years ago. Sadly, Jackie’s daughter, who lives with her on and off, has a long term substance addiction. In Jackie’s efforts to care (and maintain her tough, independent approach to life!), she spent all her savings, superannuation and home equity trying to support her daughter.

We met Jackie at an inner-city community service where our lawyers are embedded with front-line staff. By this time, Jackie had lost her home and was facing eviction from a tenancy. As well as bank-rolling the addiction, she was paying off >$55,000 of debts to multiple creditors, and not making rental payments. 

Our financial counsellor has worked with Jackie for 5 months now - to negotiate with the landlord to delay the eviction; connect Jackie to services that can shift her carer burden and get more support for herself; re-establish connection to supportive family members; and, plan how to safely begin a new tenancy, with access to bond loans and rental supports. By working closely with our pro bono and staff lawyers, $20,000 of debts have been waived so far and Jackie is beginning to feel hopeful. “We’re there for the journey not the band-aid” says Tash, our financial counsellor.

Jackie shared: I can't tell you how much it means to me for the help you are giving me. For the first time in many years I don't feel completely alone. 

LawRight's Passport project is proudly supported by Brisbane City Council for 12 months.

Magistrates Court pilot self-rep service 

At a glance: LawRight receives 10-15 enquiries weekly for civil law services in Magistrates Courts across Queensland. This is the proverbial iceberg's tip and in a jurisdiction up to $150,000, vulnerable litigants can be severely impacted without targeted assistance.  We commence a 2 year-pilot in the Magistrates Court this month, using our existing service model for self represented litigants in the higher state courts. LawRight already delivers a weekly duty-barrister service for Magistrates Court enforcement hearings and the occasional stretch to help a Magistrates Court litigant, but the new pilot will consistently help litigants throughout Queensland.

With the support of all firms currently rostered with our States Court office, a re-allocation of government funds, a self-funding commitment from the LawRight Management Committee and the support of a long-term secondment from Corrs Chambers Westgarth, we’ll be able to help people like Lee.

Lee's story

Lee ran a small family restaurant but had to close the business, complaining that his landlord refused to repair leaks, flooding and plumbing problems which interfered with his business. The landlord sued Lee for unpaid rent and property damage, and when Lee got the court documents he was overwhelmed and had no money for lawyers. He reached out to LawRight for help less than a week before he had to file a defence.

Lee has minimal English but over 18 months, volunteer lawyers from five law firms helped him take each step – filing a defence, amending documents, writing to the landlord’s lawyers, making a counterclaim and offering to settle. The landlord refused all attempts to negotiate and it looked like the matter would go to trial. After 60 hours of pro bono legal efforts, and in the middle of helping Lee subpoena witnesses for trial, we encouraged Lee to make one last settlement offer. The landlord ultimately accepted and the matter was resolved. 

Lee shared: “...thank you for all the help that you have given me in the past year and a half.... I am very grateful for all you have done for me and I can’t thank you enough.”
Queensland Legal Walk

You can support these vital services by registering for the Queensland Legal Walk on 18 May 2021.

Register now
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