What does a legal officer for adults do?
OPG Legal Services Adult Team are legally trained guardians who make legal decisions to progress an adult’s legal matters. Guardianship clients can be involved in various areas of law that impact on their rights such as:
- being vulnerable to being charged with criminal offences and being the victim of criminal offences
- as parents in child protection proceedings
- as aggrieved and/or respondents to applications for domestic violence protection orders.
OPG Legal Services’ Adult Team legal officers do not provide direct legal representation to clients. They act as guardians for legal matters, and work in collaboration with guardians from OPG’s guardianship area who are appointed for health, accommodation and other personal matters. They “stand in the shoes” of the adult to provide instructions to legal representatives.
When it is identified that a client has a legal matter, a legal officer will ensure that the client has appropriate legal representation. In some situations the client will be entitled to a grant of legal aid, or be eligible for legal assistance from other community legal services. The Public Guardian does not fund legal assistance or representation for clients.
A critical task for each legal officer is to ensure that the legal representative engaged to conduct the client’s matter has an understanding of the client’s disability or impairment, including how that may impact on the progression of their legal matters and the considerations of relevant decision makers. The legal officer is responsible for briefing the legal representative about the client’s story and circumstances, including information that the client sometimes cannot provide. The Legal Officer’s role is an acknowledgement of the complexity of providing legal services to clients with impaired decision-making capacity. Legal Officers with the Office of the Public Guardian have the experience and knowledge to provide assistance to both lawyers and vulnerable clients through a variety of legal processes, including mitigation material.
Finally the legal officer will make decisions that a client would make if they had capacity that progress their legal matters and provide instructions to the engaged legal representatives.