Budget doesn’t do enough to protect vulnerable in domestic violence cases

The Society is disappointed that Budget 2018 failed to provide for abolition of civil legal aid fees for victims of domestic violence.

  • No allocated funding to meet UN recommendations on abolition of civil legal aid in domestic violence cases
  • Call to cut waiting times for law centre consultations for legal aid applications – some waiting times up to 34 weeks
  • Call to sub-contract out work to cut waiting times

The Law Society of Ireland today expressed disappointment that Budget 2018 failed to allocate the funding for the abolition of civil legal aid fees for victims of domestic violence and called for reprioritisation of available funding to support vulnerable people during the coming year.

Keith Walsh, Chair of the Law Society’s Family and Child Law Committee said:

“We have long been advocating for increasing access to justice through providing greater access to civil legal aid. In tandem we have long sought a review of the means test to permit more people to become eligible for civil legal aid.”

“The Government’s position does not move towards addressing the United Nations’ recommendations to the Irish Government on legal aid contributions in domestic violence cases.”

“Domestic violence matters are some of the most heart-wrenching and difficult briefs a solicitor can work on. It is said that 1 in 5 women in Ireland who have been in a relationship have been abused by a current or former partner, and evidence shows there is a growing trend in men reporting being abused as well.”

“In addition to reviewing the means test the Legal Aid Board should consider sub- contracting out its work to its private practitioner schemes which are currently under resourced and hence underutilised. This would take pressure off the waiting lists in the law centres and permit the overworked solicitors and staff in the legal aid more space within which to deal with the already formidable waiting lists around the country.”

“We have serious concerns about the waiting times for consultations in law centres. In terms of waiting times, the applicant first has to go through a very detailed process of being vetted to ensure they are entitled to legal aid, only then do they go on the waiting list. This initial vetting process can take some time.”

The Legal Aid Board’s website provides detail of waiting times for first consultations at law centres (as at August 2017), including:

  • Cork South Mall Law Centre: 32 weeks
  • Tallaght Law Centre: 32 weeks
  • Navan Law Centre: 27 weeks

Breakdown figures available on the Legal Aid Board website

This is only the first consultation. There is no indication as to how long actually getting legal services takes after the initial consultation.  

“The Law Society calls for proper funding to be put in place for the Legal Aid Board which has been under resourced since 2008.”

“In addition we would like to pay tribute to the solicitors and staff in the Legal Aid Board who deliver a top class service in spite of the lack of resources and funding.” 

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