Concerns Albany is light on criminal lawyers

Tim EdmundsAlbany Advertiser

The Law Society of WA has raised concerns about the retention and recruitment of criminal lawyers in regional areas, including Albany.

It says more graduates need to be encouraged to move from Perth.

Recent retirements of full-time criminal lawyers in Albany have stretched the remaining solicitors acting in the local courts.

In the Albany Magistrate’s Court last week, visiting Magistrate Steven Malley wondered if Albany had enough competent solicitors after a lawyer from Perth was sourced for a trial.

Law Society of WA president Alain Musikanth said the recruitment of lawyers to country areas was an important issue.

“Legal Aid WA and community legal centres play a vital role in maintaining access to justice for the public, especially in regional areas,” he said.

“It is crucial that in criminal matters accused persons have access to proper legal representation. It follows that any lack of private criminal lawyers working in regional areas is particularly concerning.

“I would encourage law graduates and young lawyers to consider working in regional areas.”

Former Aboriginal Legal Service lawyer Richard Hickson has begun working privately in recent months, while experienced defence lawyer Bruno Illari has scaled back and Tony Chilvers has recently retired.

It follows the retirement of prominent defence lawyer Kevin Prince two years ago. Mr Hickson said the retirements in such a close time frame of each other were an “unfortunate set of circumstances” and there was a gap which needed to be filled.

“We could definitely do with a couple more,” he said.

“At the moment it is quite busy.”

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