Solicitor General Role Should Change Focus, Says Review

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Solicitor General Role Should Change Focus, Says Review LawFuel.co.nz – NZ Law News Daily – A review of the role of the Crown Solicitor and the Crown Law Office could open opportunities for lawyers to handle more Crown legal work, while largely maintaining …Solicitor General Role Should Change Focus, Says Review

LawFuel.co.nz – NZ Law News Daily – A review of the role of the Crown Solicitor and the Crown Law Office could open opportunities for lawyers to handle more Crown legal work, while largely maintaining the current structure of the Crown Law Office.

The review, released by Attorney General Chris Finlayson yesterday, was undertaken by Auckland barrister Miriam Dean QC (pictured) and Simpson Grierson Special Counsel David Cochrane.

Mr Finlayson commissioned the review last October and it follows similar reviews in 1986 and 2006.The latest review sees a need for a change in the focus of the Solicitor General’s role, with the authors recommending that the Solicitor General’s role should be more focused on advisory rather than advocacy.

“The Solicitor-General/Crown Law be more open to briefing external lawyers, especially here that is a departmment’s (or a Minister’s) preference,” the report says in a summarised list of recommendations.

Although the authors do not recommend a formal panel of counsel be appointed, similar to the Crown Solicitors’ panel across different districts, they are clearly in favour of “external briefing” of solicitors beyond just the existing Crown Solicitors network, former Crown Counsel and Wellington-based lawyers.The news will be welcome to many lawyers who have been recently omitted from the All of Government review of legal services, as well as those who may now be eligible for potentially lucrative Crown briefs.Attorney General Finlayson welcomed the report, saying “The review recognised the Crown Law Office and the Solicitor-General as its head have a critical role in ensuring consistency and quality of legal advice across Government,” Mr Finlayson said.

“The reviewers concluded that Crown Law remains the best placed agency to provide leadership of government legal services, and that its most important role as an advisor should be maintained and strengthened.”Among other recommendations was the maintenance of the Solicitor-General’s position as Chief Executive of the Crown Law Offices as well as the senior legal advisor and advocate for the Crown, however there is a suggestion that management functions should be altered to provide for a permanent position of Deputy Chief Executive and an assessment of management and reporting lines.

There was also a recommendation that government legal services should be strengthened with a dedicated prosecutions group that would involve staff involved in prosecutions and appeals and which would be headed by a new Director of Public Prosecutions.However the new DPP role does not herald any structural change to criminal prosecutions and the way they are conducted.

The review, which looked at prosecution models in Australia, the UK, US and Canada, saying the models in those jurisdictions reflected their own legal systems. “While there are similarities, there are also fundamental differences. In particular, the UK and the US separate the advice and advocacy roles,” the reported.
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