Too many lay litigants in family law proceedings, FLAC warns

Too many lay litigants in family law proceedings, FLAC warns

Eilis Barry

Far too many people are representing themselves in family law proceedings, legal rights group FLAC has warned.

The Oireachtas justice committee yesterday published its report on the family law system, which chairman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said made “abundantly clear that the family law system requires fundamental and ambitious reform”.

Welcoming the report, FLAC CEO Eilis Barry said it was a timely analysis of a system that is completely outdated, overcrowded and working with venues that are not fit for purpose.

FLAC agrees with the committee’s view that the threshold for legal aid “needs to be raised significantly”, she said.

Ms Barry continued: “With this report, there is now a growing consensus that there needs to be broader and deeper legal aid. The Chief Justice has reiterated this recently and FLAC has been calling for it for some time. We also believe that the Legal Aid Board itself wants a review of the allowances and means test.

“We are now calling on the Minister for Justice to heed these voices and carry out a root and branch review of legal aid as a matter of urgency, and we would welcome the opportunity to provide further inputs to the committee and the Minister in that regard.

“It is now 40 years since the Airey judgement where Ireland was found to be in breach of its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights in relation to its failure to provide Josey Airey with legal aid in her family law proceedings. Given the scale of unrepresented litigants in family courts, we believe that Ireland continues to be in breach of its obligations in this regard.”

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