Minister for Justice and Equality announces appointment of new Legal Aid Board

 

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr. Alan Shatter, T.D. today appointed a Chairperson and twelve members to the Legal Aid Board to replace the outgoing Board whose term of office expired on 10 October last.  

The Chairperson is Ms. Muriel Walls who is a solicitor and Partner in McCann FitzGerald Solicitors.  Other biographical details are:


·        Member of the Board of the Family Support Agency (FSA) for three terms 2002 to 2011. The FSA had responsibility for the Family Mediation Service. 
·        Member and former Chair of the Family Lawyers Association 
·        Director and former Chairperson of FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) 
·        Member and former Chair of the Law Society Family Law and Legal Aid Committee 1996-2006 
·        Founder of the Collaborative Practice in Ireland and a member of the Association of Collaborative Practitioners (ACP)


The twelve other members appointed by the Minister to the Board are:


Ms. Oonagh Buckley, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Representative   
Ms. Mary Dalton, Legal Aid Board Staff Representative 
Ms. Kate Hayes, Member of outgoing Civil Legal Aid Board 
Ms. Joy McGlynn, Social Work Team Leader, HSE 
Ms. Oonagh McPhillips, Department of Justice and Equality Representative 
Mr. Donncha O’Connell, Lecturer in Constitutional Law and European Human Rights, NUI, Galway
Mr. Micheál O’Connell, BL
 
Mr. John O’Gorman, Legal Aid Board Staff Representative 
Mr. Philip O’Leary, Solicitor, Managing Partner, Fitzgerald Solicitors, Cork 
Ms. Michelle O’Neill, BL 
Mr. Ger Power, Department of Social Protection Representative 
Mr. Rob Reid, Finance Manager, College of Business and Law UCD


Announcing the new Board the Minister said:

"I am delighted to announce this new Legal Aid Board.  In the last four years there has been a considerable increase in demand for legal services and this coincides with the downturn in the economy.  Evidence internationally has pointed towards a greater need for access to legal services in areas such as family law, debt and employment during times of economic stress and Ireland appears no different in this regard.  This has inevitably created huge pressures for the Board and its capacity to deliver legal services within a reasonable period of time.  There are many challenges ahead for this new Board, including piloting, early in 2012, a somewhat different approach to the provision of legal services by way of an attempt to ensure that every applicant for legal aid gets an appointment within a period of three or four weeks.  

In November of this year, I also announced the formal integration of the Family Mediation Service with the Legal Aid Board and the functions of the Legal Aid Board have now been extended under Part 16 of the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act to include a family mediation service.   The Board is also, in taking a range of other measures, keeping all of its services under review with a view to ensuring that its resources are used as efficiently and effectively as possible.  

I am confident that the new Board members will all bring their considerable skills and expertise to the work of the Legal Aid Board and that their presence on the Board will ensure that it continues to operate as innovatively, efficiently and effectively as it has always done, in what is, a much more difficult economic environment than at any time in its history."


The Minister also thanked the outgoing Board for their dedicated service and particularly Ms. Anne Colley who chaired the Board for two terms.  The Minister concluded "I want to thank all the members of the outgoing Board for their outstanding contribution to the development of the Legal Aid Board and particularly at a time when we faced enormous economic challenges with a significant increase in demand for services and scarce resources.  I especially want to thank the outgoing Chairperson Ms. Anne Colley for her tireless commitment and dedication to the work of the Board.  All of the members have helped to ensure that the Legal Aid Board remains an effective and respected body that is well placed to continue its good work".
 
 
Ends


Note to Editor
 

Legal Aid Board - Background Briefing 

Fees

Members of the Board are paid Category 3 fees as follows:

Chairperson        -        €11,970 
Member*        -          €7,695 

* Departmental representatives, public servants and Legal Aid Board staff representatives on the Board are not paid any fees.  On this basis the following eight members of the new Board will not be remunerated;

Ms. Oonagh Buckley, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Representative; 

Ms. Mary Dalton, Legal Aid Board Staff Representative; 
Ms. Joy McGlynn, Social Work Team Leader, HSE; 

Ms. Oonagh McPhillips, Department of Justice and Equality Representative;  

Mr. Donncha O’Connell, Lecturer in Constitutional Law and European Human Rights, NUI, Galway; 

Mr. John O’Gorman, Legal Aid Board Staff Representative 
Mr. Ger Power, Department of Social Protection Representative 
Mr. Rob Reid, Finance Manager, College of Business and Law UCD


1.        Function and purpose
The Legal Aid Board is the statutory, independent body responsible for the provision of civil legal aid and advice to persons of modest means, in accordance with the provisions of the Civil Legal Aid Act, 1995.

Legal advice is any oral or written advice given by a solicitor or barrister, including writing letters and negotiations.

Legal aid is representation by a solicitor or barrister in court proceedings.  A person must first obtain a legal aid certificate, which specifies the legal services being granted, and must pay the legal aid contribution specified on the certificate. 
Legal services are provided across a wide range of civil law matters.

2.        Service provision
Legal aid and advice are provided primarily through a network of law centres by solicitors employed by the Board.  A complementary service is provided by solicitors in private practice who are engaged by the Board on a case-by-case basis.

The service is provided on a nationwide basis through 29 full-time and 12 part-time law centres, and also incorporates the Refugee Legal Service (RLS) and a small number of other specialist units. 

The Board also operates a specialised Refugee Documentation Centre, which provides an independent and professional research and library service for all of the main bodies involved in the asylum process.

3.        Obtaining legal services
A person seeking legal services must apply to a law centre and must complete an application form, stating the subject matter on which legal advice and/or aid is sought and giving details of income and any capital resources.

The Board seeks to ensure that a person who qualifies for legal services will be offered an appointment with a solicitor within a maximum period of 4 months from the time the application is completed.  In certain cases, a priority service is provided. Such cases can include domestic violence, child abduction, cases involving applications by the State to take children into care, and cases that have statutory time limits close to expiry.

4.        Payment for legal services
All persons who are granted legal advice and/or legal aid are required to pay a contribution to the Board.  The legal advice contribution is assessed on the applicant’s disposable income, i.e. income after certain deductions.  The legal aid contribution is assessed on the applicant’s disposable income and disposable capital.  The minimum contribution is €10 for legal advice and €50 for legal aid.  The law centre advises a person of the actual contribution in each individual case.  In the event that a person recovers money or property arising from the case, the Board may seek to recover the cost to the Board of providing legal services to the client.

5.        Funding
Funding for the Legal Aid Board in the period 2008-2011 has been as follows:




 Year 

Civil Legal Aid (€m)

RLS (€m)

Total (€m)

2009

26.310

8.330

34.640

2010

24.225

7.967

32.192

2011

24.125

6.445

30.570





6.        Demand for services
Applications for civil legal aid have increased significantly in recent years, as can be seen in the table below. Applications for legal services increased from just over 10,100 in 2007 to 17,200 in 2010, which represents a 70% increase approximately. At the same time, applications to the Refugee Legal Service have fallen in line with the falling number of asylum claims made in the jurisdiction.




Year

2010

2009

2008

2007

Law centres 

17,175

14,073

11,888

10,164

Refugee Legal Service 

1,448

2,298

3,219

2,650

Total 

18,623

16,371

15,107

12,814






Family Mediation Service
The main features of the Family Mediation Service (FMS) are as follows:

a)        The FMS is a free professional and confidential service for couples, married and non-married, who have decided to separate or divorce and who together want to negotiate the terms of their separation or divorce;

b)        Mediation helps parties  reach an agreement that meets their interests and those of their children; and 

c)        The FMS also deals with a small number of cases which involve conflict between other members of a family (e.g. parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren on issues such as wills).


The FMS budget for 2011 is €2.948m.

Location and Structure of FMS Services
The FMS currently has 12 part-time and four full time offices, details of which are set out in the table below. The FMS is divided into four regions as follows:

Eastern Region: Dundalk, Blanchardstown, Raheny
Mid-west Region: Limerick, Athlone, Tallaght, Portlaoise
Western Region: Letterkenny, Sligo, Castlebar, Galway
Southern Region:  Cork, Waterford, Wexford, Tralee 




Location of FMS Offices

Full-time

Part-time

Galway
Limerick
Cork
Dublin (St Stephen’s Green)

Athlone
Castlebar
Letterkenny
Portlaoise
Dundalk
Blanchardstown (Dublin)
Raheny (Dublin)
Wexford
Waterford
Tralee
Tallaght (Dublin)
Sligo