Legal aid eligibility review urged
The commission called for a review of legal aid eligibility after it was revealed that the father of a child applicant had assets of more than $10 million. It called for more stringent requirements to help reduce the deficits of the scheme, which is run by the Legal Aid Department and paid out $413 million in the previous financial year.
In the same period, a deficit of $122 million was recorded, up from $25.9 million in 1993-94. The commission said records showed that in the case of the child, $220,000 was granted in 1998. Under existing policy, the assets of the parents of an applicant under the age of 18 are not considered in the applicant's means test.
The commission proposed tightening the means test procedure, including home visits and verification of the income of applicants, such as seeking information directly from employers.
Out of 82 cases studied, the commission found that no home visits had been made. Of the cases, 31 said they had employment. But eight could not produce proof of income and the department could only resort to checking their bank statements or savings passbooks.
The administration said it would consider the commission's comments in its legal aid policy review.