NI: More than 800 cases held up by legal aid row

Gerry McAlinden QC
Gerry McAlinden QC, chair of the Bar Council of Northern Ireland

More than 800 cases have been held up in Northern Ireland’s courts due to an ongoing row between lawyers and the Department of Justice over legal aid cuts.

Justice Minister David Ford said the decision of barristers and solicitors to withdraw their services on new cases requiring legal aid was “unacceptable”.

His department’s latest figures show 817 cases are still waiting to be heard because of the disruption.

Gerry McAlinden QC, chair of the Bar Council of Northern Ireland, said: “I do not like where we are and I do feel a great deal of sympathy for those who are waiting for their cases to be heard.

“But the long-term result must be proper remuneration, a proper level of service within our Crown court to ensure that the interests of justice are properly served.”

Last month, Mr McAlinden said criminal practitioners ” are resolute in their current action of not appearing in such cases”, despite the failure of the Bar’s joint bid with the Law Society of Northern Ireland to quash the new legal aid rules in court.

An appeal against the ruling, in which Mr Justice Paul Maguire upheld complaints about “two specific aspects” of the changes but refused to quash them, will be heard in the High Court next month.

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