New criminal record checks have lawyers fuming

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New rules requiring criminal record checks for Tasmanian lawyers acting for children have lawyers up in arms.

The new rules, which suddenly came into effect earlier this month, mean that any lawyer who has contact with young people needs to fill out an application, prove their identity, pay a fee and undergo a national criminal history assessment, ongoing monitoring and risk assessment.

According to a report by The Mercury, the change came out of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse and brings Tasmania in line with other states.

“This is an unnecessary ­administrative burden that does nothing to improve the safety of children,” said Tasmanian Law Society president Matthew Verney.

“There are lawyers who represent children in criminal matters, in civil matters, and also lawyers who act as separate representatives for children in child protection cases or as independent representatives in family law matters.

“From our point of view it’s quite serious.  The feedback I’ve had from my communications with the profession during the week is that most are very angry about it,” he said.

A spokesperson for the government said the law would stand, despite concerns raised with attorney-general Vanesa Goodwin.
Greg Barns, of the Australian Lawyers Alliance, said the new laws are an insulting tax on lawyers.

“Is the Hodgman Government seriously suggesting that lawyers who have worked for years in juvenile justice and child protection must now ­undergo gross invasions of their privacy and their past simply to fulfil a revenue raising exercise on the part of the Justice Department?” he said.

“It will discourage lawyers from acting for children ­because many ... regard this as simply a revenue raising exercise by government, a gross ­example of red tape and duplication and, above all, completely unnecessary.

“I am not aware of any case in Australia where a lawyer has sexually interfered with a child client.”