Call for end to legal aid fees in domestic violence situations

The top queries related to family law, housing and employment law

Call for end to legal aid fees in domestic violence situations

File photo [Pixabay]

The Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) say legal fees should be waived for victims of domestic violence.

It comes as the group's annual report shows 25,700 people received information and legal advice last year.

The top queries made from 12,229 callers to FLAC's telephone helpline related to family law, housing and employment law.

In local legal advice clinics, 13,481 callers received legal advice, with family law (34%), employment law (14.7%), wills and probate (9.5%) and housing (7.4%) dominating here.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said: "The assistance of the Citizens Information Services who work so closely with FLAC in those clinics must also be acknowledged.

"FLAC has long campaigned for those in mortgage arrears and I would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm this Government's commitment to supporting those, particularly through the Abhaile scheme launched in October 2016."

But FLAC Chief Executive Eilis Barry says excessive delays exist in some Legal Aid Board law centres.

"Waiting times for an initial short consultation vary with the longest being 36 weeks in Longford, 29 weeks in Navan and Nenagh and 23 weeks in Kilkenny.

"Waiting times for a second consultation also vary but are up to 49 weeks in Tallaght, and 43 weeks in Jervis Street.

"The High Court has stated that waiting times should not exceed two to four months. The current waiting times in some centres greatly exceed this limit."

Ms Barry also called on the Legal Aid Board to drop legal aid charges for people experiencing domestic violence.

"Civil legal aid fees should be automatically waived for victims of domestic violence when seeking safety, protection or barring orders."

In March of this year, a United Nartions committee specifically recommended that Ireland end the requirement for victims of domestic violence to make financial contributions for civil legal aid when seeking court protection.

The UN has now followed this on July 14th with a general comment urging states to ensure access to 'financial aid and free or low-cost high quality legal aid'.

FLAC chairperson Peter Ward noted the significant impact of FLAC's work over the last year: "It was very positive to see the introduction in 2016, after much campaigning by FLAC and others, of the Abhaile scheme of legal aid for people in mortgage arrears in danger of repossession."

He also welcomed a law reforming legislation underpinning the Financial Services Ombudsman's office, the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland (Amendment) Act 2017.