Deadline extended for civil legal aid consultation
A public consultation on reform of Ireland’s civil legal aid system has been extended until the end of the month for further submissions.
The consultation, which forms part of the independent review led by former chief justice Frank Clarke, began in December and was originally set to run until 3 February.
The government has appealed for members of the public with experience of the civil legal aid system in particular to contribute to the consultation.
Mr Justice Clarke said: “Many people who are facing legal issues such as separation, divorce, maintenance or child custody issues find themselves concerned about the legal costs of going to court and rely on the civil legal aid system to support them through the process.
“The feedback we have gotten suggests this is a crucial lifeline to thousands annually. Now, we are reviewing the frame of reference for the civil legal aid system and asking if it appropriately addresses the needs of those who need it.
“For example, should this support be extended to citizens facing into housing, employment or other issues not currently covered by the scheme? In this time of rapid increases in the cost of living, including housing and energy, should the thresholds for accessing civil legal aid be revised?”
He added: “The review group is grateful to all those who have shared their views already. However, we also realise that some organisations and individuals want some additional time to reflect on and finalise their own responses, and we are happy to facilitate this.
“This feedback from both stakeholder organisations and ordinary citizens will inform the work of the review group, including the potential for further engagement with stakeholders. So it is very important that those who have an opinion on, or experience of the civil legal aid system take whatever time they can to engage with the consultation.”
Simon Harris, the justice minister, said: “I’m really pleased that this extension will give more people the opportunity to take part in the consultation.
“It’s important for us as legislators and policy makers to hear from the people who will be affected by our decisions and we want to ensure that as many people as possible get the chance to have their voices heard.
“The civil legal aid scheme is integral to ensuring people on low incomes have fair access to justice.
“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to help shape the future of this scheme to ensure that the support it provides is accessible, fair and effective.
“f you or your organisation has a view on how access to justice could be improved for people on low incomes or who may feel marginalised in other ways, I would encourage you to take part in the consultation.”