Criminal legal aid reform bill to be drafted this summer

Criminal legal aid reform bill to be drafted this summer

Simon Harris

New legislation transferring responsibility for the criminal legal aid scheme to the Legal Aid Board will be drafted this summer under government plans published today.

Justice Plan 2023, outlining over 140 actions to be taken by the government this year, was published today by justice minister Simon Harris and minister of state James Browne.

The commitments include the publication of the general scheme of the Criminal Legal Aid Bill, which will also “update and modernise the law on criminal legal aid”, by the end of June 2023.

Other major commitments include work towards the enactment of the Family Courts Bill 2022, which provides for the creation of new dedicated Family Courts within the existing court structures, by the end of 2023.

The enactment of the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill is scheduled for the end of June 2023 at the latest.

“Justice Plan 2023 sets out a significant work programme to be undertaken by the Department of Justice this year,” Mr Harris said today.

“It is also as the third and final year of delivering the priorities outlined in our Statement of Strategy 2021-2023, which was first published by my colleague minister Helen McEntee in February 2021.

“This Plan contains an ambitious number of actions to be achieved over the course of the year as we work to continue to build stronger, safer communities that will make a real difference for people in Ireland in both the short and long term.

“A key priority will be to continue to support An Garda Síochána in protecting our communities from crime through increased resources and a stronger and more diverse Garda service. We will invest in recruitment, training and technology and progress new legislation to help An Garda Síochána as they do their vital job protecting us.

“I and minister McEntee will also lead implementation of Zero Tolerance, the third national strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence across government and work across society to achieve zero tolerance of this appalling violence and abuse.

“The actions set out in this Plan are far-reaching and ambitious but, given the progress that we have seen under the two previous Justice Plans, I am confident that the Department is a capable of realising the goals set out within it.”

Mr Browne added: “Justice Plan 2022 delivered significant progress across the justice system and in particular, it delivered one of my key priorities, to publish the Gambling Regulation Bill 2022.

“As committed to in the Programme for Government, this bill is a true milestone and long-awaited legislation. It is an important and necessary bill and reform, designed to meet the challenges of gambling responsibly in 21st century Ireland.

“The primary objective of the bill is to present the framework for a robust regulatory and licensing regime for the gambling sector in Ireland. Justice Plan 2023 commits to bringing this bill through the Oireachtas to allow for the establishment of the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland.

“I will also continue to further progress implementation of the Youth Justice Strategy, which provides a developmental framework to address key ongoing challenges, as well as new and emerging issues, in the youth justice area. A major change contained in this Strategy is a new and expanded mandate for the Youth Diversion Projects (YDPs) across the State.

“There are currently some 105 YDPs in operation and the intention of this year’s Justice Plan, under the Youth Justice Strategy, is to provide full geographic availability of youth diversion services throughout the State by the end of 2023. I am especially enthusiastic about the establishment of new projects, which will mark a significant achievement of this objective.”

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