Esperance sees arrival of Virtual Legal Aid

Virtual Aid: Hope Community Services Esperance manager Aubrey Davies-Smithies inside the Virtual Legal Aid room. Photo: Jake Dietsch.
Virtual Aid: Hope Community Services Esperance manager Aubrey Davies-Smithies inside the Virtual Legal Aid room. Photo: Jake Dietsch.

A new service providing free and accessible legal advice was recently launched in Esperance.

Virtual Legal Aid offers free, confidential and face-to-face appointments over an I-Pad with a lawyer for criminal, civil and family court matters.

Hope Community Services Esperance manager Aubrey Davies-Smithies said Legal Aid approached Hope for the use of one of their rooms.

Mr Davies-Smithies said through the alcohol and drug counselling Hope offered, he had seen a need for legal support.

"It is early days, but there has already been a good use of the service so far," he said.

"Specifically with the nature of our business, being actively involved with diversion programs and with our reputation, people come and talk to us.

"We can now direct them to this free legal equipment."

Mr Davies-Smithies said the virtual service had saved clients the lengthy and costly process of seeing a lawyer.

"Whether people are innocent or guilty, it gives them a fair opportunity to speak with someone that can give them sound legal advice," he said.

Legal Aid WA managing solicitor of legal practice development Helen DeBrito said the organisation had a positive relationship with the Hope Esperance team and they were helping to connect Legal Aid to local clients in need.

"Over the first few weeks, we have already made a difference to a number of people who have attended the service for advice in criminal, family and civil law," Ms DeBrito said.

"We certainly consider the virtual office in Esperance to be an early success."

Ms DeBrito said research had identified living in a regional location as a potential barrier to accessing services.

"By using technology to connect clients to Legal Aid lawyers, we are working towards improving access to justice for people in regional and remote Western Australia," she said.

Appointments are available every Tuesday.

To book an appointment, phone 9261 6376 or email virtual.office@legalaid.wa.gov.au.