Monday 20 November 2017

Legal reform bill is badly flawed

Madam – I would like to pick up on two points in Emer O'Kelly's article (Sunday Independent, November 17, 2013) about the planned legislation on legal services. Ms O'Kelly suggests that Free Legal Advice Centres (Flac) would be included in those nominating the regulatory body. While we would like to be, as we have a lot to say about legal services to poor or marginalised people, Flac is not included. The State-funded Legal Aid Board is the body which will have the right to nominate one person, according to the latest proposals from the minister.

On a more general point, a lot of hope is invested in the Legal Services Regulation Bill which may not be realised if it is enacted in its present form. It will provide for an independent complaints procedure and for increased transparency about legal costs, both welcome proposals. However, unless the next draft is radically different, it will not increase access for people on middle to low incomes to the courts and to justice and may restrict that access even further.

So those on long waiting lists for State-funded legal aid, those who are restricted from taking cases in the public interest, those who seek extensive change in the administration of justice needn't hold their breath.

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