Release date: 27/11/2019
Council of The Bar of Ireland welcomes the opportunity to address the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality on access to justice and legal costs today as for any legal system to operate at its optimum level, access to justice must be available to all.
“Justice is a fundamental value of utmost importance in the life of every citizen and members of the Law Library, the independent referral bar, play a vital role in promoting and safeguarding an equal right of access to justice” said Conor Dignam SC, Vice Chair, Council of The Bar of Ireland “Legal aid has long been recognised as a vital component to ensuring a person’s constitutional rights of access to the courts. While there are State-run legal aid schemes, it is evident that they are increasingly insufficient to meet growing needs, and members of the Law Library, alongside organisations such as FLAC and Community Law and Mediation, strive to do everything possible to support and empower people who may not otherwise have the means to access justice”
“Many recipients of legal aid are among some of the most vulnerable cohorts of society and their access to the legal system must be supported and protected in the highest possible way. Through the participation of barristers in the provision of civil and criminal legal aid, legally aided clients have the benefit of representation by and advices from barristers with a high level of experience and expertise” he continued.
Seán OhUallacháin SC, a barrister specialising in Family Law said “The civil legal aid system in Ireland is chronically under-resourced and significant additional resources are required if the scheme is to provide meaningful legal aid to the most vulnerable sectors of society on a long term and sustainable basis. Urgent improvements are required across the board including in terms of eligibility and the areas of law to which civil legal aid applies, there is evidence to support considerable economic gains to be garnered from increased investment in legal aid.”
“Legal aid cannot be reformed in isolation. The smooth and efficient administration of justice requires investment in the justice system as a whole. Constricting budgets are making it harder for the courts to do their work, compounded by a shortage of judges. There are a wide range of improvements required so that timely and efficient access to justice is accessible to all those that need it including reforms to the discovery process, the increased use of electronic filing and service procedures, improvements to the process for listing cases, enhanced case management tools across all courts, and class action litigation are but some of the changes which would increase the efficiency of civil litigation in Ireland and reduce costs. Council of The Bar of Ireland is ready and willing to work with all stakeholders to realise these essential reforms, and calls for these measures to be supported by appropriate levels of funding to ensure the efficient administration of justice ” he concluded.
The full submission to the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality is available here.