Chairman Philip O’Leary expressed disappointment, however, that the numbers opting for mediation have fallen in Dublin, with 318 first joint information sessions in 2017 compared with 348 in 2016 and 407 in 2015.
The board wants a higher take-up of mediation in applications for guardianship, custody or access in the Dublin area, and it is planning to hone its strategy in this area.
Of the board’s 17,103 new applications for civil legal aid or international protection in 2017 (which represented a 3% increase), 68% involved family disputes.
The numbers waiting for legal services dropped for the fifth successive year, to 1,776 at year-end, from a high of over 5,000 in 2013.
A total of 25,049 aid applications were submitted to the board: 15,745 for civil legal aid; 1,358 for international protection; 2,402 relating to home repossession through the Abhaile scheme; and 5,544 for family mediation.
The Legal Aid Board delivers the Garda Station Legal Advice Scheme, the Criminal Assets Bureau Legal Aid Scheme, and the Legal Aid Custody Issues Scheme. Responsibility for the main Criminal Legal Aid Scheme is expected to be transferred to it shortly.
The board processed 4,125 claims for garda station detainee legal counsel, a significant year-on-year increase, with solicitors now entitled to claim fees for time spent at these interviews, as well as waiting time. The total cost of authorised garda station claims in 2017 was €1,527,200, shared between 234 firms.
Payments to solicitors for High Court bail applications under the custody issues scheme totalled €795,500.
The board’s 30 law centres use a mixed model of employed staff, including solicitors and private solicitors paid on a fee-per-case basis. Private solicitors provided representation in 6,002 family law cases at the District Court and in 30 hearings at the Circuit Court.
Through the Abhaile scheme, 1,933 vouchers for legal advice were issued to those facing potential repossession of their home.
There were over 500 duty solicitor attendances at court repossession lists, while just under 470 legal aid certificates were issued to enable Circuit Court appeals against the refusal of creditors to approve a personal insolvency arrangement.