Government to reassess justice cuts

Justice Minister Darin King has formed a committee to revisit budget-related reductions in his department.

Minister acknowledges "pressure" to revisit decisions

During this week's On Point, Justice Minister Darin King says government is confident in the cuts to the budget system. (CBC)

Admitting he's under pressure, Justice Minister Darin King has formed a committee to revisit controversial cuts in his department.

The committee is made up of key representatives for legal aid, public prosecutions, the sheriff's office and defence lawyers, as well as Finance Minister Jerome Kennedy and Attorney General Tom Marshall.

They plan to meet on Monday.

Earlier this week, King said he was confident that cuts to the number of Crown attorneys would not compromise legal services.

"Any time you make a reduction, you're going to make a change to the service," King said.

"We will not let the system go in jeopardy, or public safety go in jeopardy, over any of these budgetary measures in the Department of Justice."

On Wednesday, during taping of this week's episode of On Point with David Cochrane, King said government was confident in the cuts.

"We believe strongly that the changes we've made can work, and can do the job we need to do. If it doesn't, then we'll respond."

But on Friday, King told CBC News he was "under pressure" to revisit the cuts, so he decided to strike the committee to do just that.

"I also accept the criticism that's out there and the concern that's out there, so when I presented all this to the premier she was very clear and very adamant that we need to take a second look at this."

King said the people who will be involved during Monday's discussions were involved in the original budget process.

"I guess we're under pressure, like many departments, around the budget, but what I would say ... is that these decisions were not taken lightly," King said.

"I've asked them to be very clear and very focused and very honest with me on whether or not we've gone too far in some areas and whether or not we need to look at adding back or reallocating some resources."

Opposition not surprised

Liberal MHA Andrew Parsons said the decisions were made in the wrong order.

"This is a sign of a government that likes to do everything backwards — cut first, consult later," Parsons said.

"This is not the first time they've done this, they did this with the dentists, they did it with dermatologists, NLMA.

"The fact is we're acting first, and then we're trying to close the barn door after."

NDP MHA George Murphy said government made a mistake.

"This is an act of desperation," Murphy said. "This is backpedalling. Since when do you not consult the justice system before you make a decision?"

The committee is set to meet on Monday, with decisions expected by the end of next week.