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Opening Of Consultation On Civil Legal Aid Scheme Welcomed.

The Minister for Justice, Mrs Helen McEntee T.D., has today welcomed the opening of a consultation to seek the views of key stakeholders on how the Civil Legal Aid Scheme can be reformed.

The consultation forms part of a comprehensive, independent review of the Civil Legal Aid Scheme; an action as committed to in the Justice Plan 2022 and the Programme for Government.

Minister McEntee said: “I recently announced a review of the Civil Legal Aid Scheme, for the first time in its more than 40-year history. Today’s consultation marks the first step in that process.

In order to provide maximum benefit to those it was established to serve, within the finite resources available to fund legal aid, a robust, comprehensive review of the scheme is now timely.

This review will allow for an assessment of how flexible and responsive the scheme is to the needs of those it is intended to serve.

The consultation is aimed at academic and research institutions, NGOs, agencies and volunteer organisations. I would encourage as many groups as possible to participate and have their say on this important matter.”

The consultation is seeking interested parties to make submissions in relation to the following themes relating to the Civil Legal Aid Scheme:

  • Types of civil law cases.
  • Jurisdictions covered by the scheme.
  • Eligibility.
  • Financial Contribution.
  • Mode of delivery.
  • Accessibility.
  • Awareness and assessment of the current scheme.
  • The future.

An Independent Review Group, chaired by former Chief Justice, Mr. Frank Clarke, will oversee the consultation process as part of its work.

The Group’s terms of reference require them to examine all aspects of the current operation of the scheme and make recommendations regarding the future legal assistance needs of those who cannot afford to access legal advice and representation privately. The submissions made as part of this consultation will help inform that work.

Mr Clarke said: “Throughout my career I have striven to broaden access to justice across the Irish legal system. Ensuring that we have a fair and robust Civil Legal Aid Scheme is key to achieving this.

I am delighted to Chair the Independent Review Group, which is made up of expert membership drawn from those who work with marginalised groups, legal practitioners, academics, Department officials and representatives from the Legal Aid Board.

We will be considering a number of issues in the review, including eligibility for Civil Legal Aid. This stakeholder consultation will be a valuable opportunity to hear from those most familiar with the scheme about its operation and potential for the future.”

This work is the first phase of a multi-phase consultation process to capture a broad range of views across society.

Minister McEntee added: “The Group is here to listen and wants to hear from a full and varied range of voices on this crucial issue.
While this phase is aimed towards specific stakeholder groups, a separate, forthcoming consultation will invite members of the public to have their say.

Furthermore, the Review Group will, in the coming months, launch a third consultation specifically designed to enable hard-to-reach groups to contribute to the discussion and have their voices heard. I look forward to hearing what each group has to say.”

The consultation will run from today, Monday, 14th November 2022, until Friday, 6th January 2023, and submissions can be made by email to legalaidcivil@justice.ie.
Full details on the consultation can be found HERE

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