Some of New Zealand’s poorest citizens now owe a share of $177 million in legal debt – and the government’s charging them 5 percent interest, RNZ reveals. Critics of the system say saddling people with debt is deterring people from seeking justice, and lawyer Frances Joychild QC says the government rarely writes off legal aid debt: “The person has to be dog poor, just about living in emergency accommodation with nothing, to get it written off.” Joychild has found the fear of having a charge put over a house, or of servicing a debt they can’t afford, puts some people off accessing legal aid, even if they are eligible.
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