Author Evarn J. Ooi, Suzanne Poynton and Don Weatherburn
Published January 2019
Report Type Crime and Justice Bulletin No. 221
Subject Court processes and delay; Evaluation reports
Keywords Indictable offence, defence lawyer, criminal proceedings, court delay, Legal Aid NSW

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To investigate the impact of publicly funded private versus in-house legal representation on indictable criminal proceedings.


Data was obtained from Legal Aid NSW on every indictable criminal law grant of aid in NSW between 2012 and 2016. Legal Aid NSW assigns criminal law cases to either a private or in-house defence lawyer. These data were linked to BOCSAR’s criminal courts database to obtain a rich set of information including defendant characteristics, and prior offending history. Focusing on indictable offences only, we compare the probability that cases assigned to private or inhouse lawyers are dealt with summarily, are committed for sentencing or result in a late guilty plea.


On average, publicly funded cases assigned to private lawyers are less likely to be dealt with summarily or to be committed for sentence even after controlling for a wide range of defendant and case characteristics. In addition, matters assigned to private lawyers are more likely to result in a late guilty plea.


Legal Aid NSW indictable matters assigned to private defence lawyers are more likely to be finalised at a later stage in proceedings and are more likely to be finalised in the Higher Court.

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