The claim comes after it was revealed in a recent parliamentary Budget Estimates Hearing that the imminent closure of the Fremantle and Midland offices was due to the majority of services operating out of them not being dependent on having a separate suburban location outside of the city.
Ms MacLaren said centralising services would not save on costs.
‘The State Government has failed to provide a justification for closing down the Fremantle and Midland Legal Aid offices, other than centralising services in Perth is a cost-|cutting measure,’ she said.
‘The proposal for duty lawyers to travel down from Perth rather than being based locally will mean that people facing charges in Fremantle and Midland will have reduced access to a lawyer and are therefore more likely to be remanded in custody.
‘It is simply unrealistic to expect that the majority of Legal Aid clients can travel into St George’s Terrace to see a lawyer because these are, in most cases, society’s most disadvantaged people.’
Despite the proposed closure, Attorney General Michael Mischin announced a $2.3 million funding boost for Legal Aid WA on May 21.
The funding would be allocated over the next four years and would be used to employ four more duty lawyers for its service. It also follows a $1.4 million funding cut for Legal Aid WA in the recent Federal budget.
Mr Mischin said Legal Aid WA assured him that the majority of services provided at Fremantle were duty lawyer services for local magistrates courts.
‘These services are court-based and do not require a local office,’ he said.
‘Ms MacLaren is simply wrong when she states that people will not receive representation and risk being remanded in custody because there will be no change to the level of services Legal Aid duty lawyers will provide at courts. Legal Aid WA chose to close the offices as they were not cost-effective and following a comprehensive business plan.’