NI: Report makes 150 recommendations to improve access to justice in NI

Justice Minister David Ford

A new report on access to justice in Northern Ireland has made 150 wide-ranging recommendations aimed at reducing costs and improving the experience of those who come into contact with the justice system.

The Report of the Access to Justice Review Part II, published by Justice Minister David Ford today, has gone out to public consultation.

Speaking in the Northern Ireland Assembly today, Mr Ford said: “In 2011 I published the first Access to Justice Review, which led to a comprehensive programme of work with three strategic objectives for reform: improving access to justice; bringing legal aid within budget; and improving governance. Much has been achieved in these areas in the intervening period.

“However, access to justice is a complex issue, and more needs to be done in order to maintain momentum. That is why I commissioned a follow-up report to identify further improvements to the system.

“There is a need to balance difficult decisions over the allocation of resources with new or more efficient and effective ways of delivering access, and ensuring that those who have the necessary means contribute to, or meet their own legal costs.”

The 272-page report (available here) includes recommendations on the structure and operation of the court system and ways of improving family justice procedures and practices.

It also explores the differences between the provision of legal aid in Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland, Scotland, and England and Wales, noting that the “delivery of legal aid in Ireland is very different from the United Kingdom”.

Mr Ford said he would encourage “stakeholders and the wider public” to read the report and engage with the consultation process.

The consultation period will last for 14 weeks and closes on 9 February 2016.

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