A new face for Criminal Law

A new face for Criminal Law

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

In mid-January this year we bid farewell to Helen Fatouros as Executive Director, Criminal Law. Helen handed over management of the directorate to Dan Nicholson, who many people would know as our Executive Director, Civil Justice Access and Equity.

Dan paid tribute to Helen’s contribution during her five years at Victoria Legal Aid. ‘Helen’s passion for the law and our work has left our Criminal Law services in the strongest position they have been in for many years. With Helen’s leadership, we have significantly improved the way our services are delivered: more client services, therapeutic court expansions and strong advocacy. Helen made a valuable contribution to the justice system through her work here and will be greatly missed.’

Dan said he is looking forward to returning to criminal law work, having started practice as a criminal lawyer at Fitzroy Legal Service 15 years ago.

As 2018 looks to be another busy year for our Criminal Law division, Dan says he’s looking forward to the challenges of the role, and nominated the current debate about law and order, and more and better services in the Magistrates Courts as priorities in his time in the role. 

Dan said, ‘The year has kicked off with an intense focus on public law and order and a on offending by young people in particular. It appears that there’s a growing disconnect between the perception of crime in Victoria and the reality compared to other states, and the evidence on what will actually work is being lost in the debate. VLA has a strong interest in a functioning criminal justice system that reduces offending and keeps the community safe and we have an important role in bringing evidence to that debate, reflecting our state-wide practice experience.’

‘There are real opportunities to improve criminal law services in the Magistrates’ Court following the release of our independent Summary Crime Evaluation last year. Since the launch we’ve made some progress on implementing the 23 recommendations in the report, but there’s still a lot to do to plan what is an ambitious reform agenda in this area.’

‘We’ve now received funding to provide a night court duty lawyer service at Melbourne Magistrates’ Court and have about three months to establish it, alongside other key agencies like Victoria Police and community corrections. There’s lots to do to finalise how it will all work, but this is an excellent opportunity to ensure people have legal representation when they’re at court outside of traditional business hours.’

Dan will act in the role for three to six months while recruitment of a new Executive Director, Criminal Law is completed.

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