New laws need 'justice tests': report

A review into how Australians experiencing disadvantage access the justice system has recommended new laws be assessed for their flow-on effects.

New laws should be impact-tested before they enter Australia's justice system, according to a new report.

The assessments would prevent unintended consequences like heaping extra pressure on legal support services which are already stretched thin, the report from the Law Council says.

The "justice impact tests" are one of 59 recommendations the council has made following a lengthy review into how Australians experiencing disadvantage access the law.

"There is little government policy that doesn't have some impact on the justice system," Law Council president Morry Bailes said.

"We must ensure this impact is factored in at the very beginning of the process."

Extra demands upon courts and overcrowded prisons are examples of the unexpected consequences of some laws, Mr Bailes said.

And it's not just justice-specific policies that can have such as impact, with welfare, immigration, family and housing among other policy areas where legal changes can have flow-on effects.

Justice impact tests are already used in the United Kingdom, Canada and a number of states in the United States.

"We have no doubt they are equally needed here," Mr Bailes said.

The Law Council's report - of more than 1000 pages - will be released in Canberra on Thursday.

Also among its recommendations are a full review of resourcing in the judicial system and building people's knowledge of everyday legal issues, including through school ducation.

It also calls for greater government investment in legal assistance, at a minimum of $390 million each year, to address existing gaps.

2 min read
Published 23 August 2018 at 3:38am
Source: AAP