Legal Aid Board chief backs calls for family law reform



Philip O'Leary
Philip O’Leary

The chairperson of the Legal Aid Board has backed calls for fundamental and ambitious reform to the family law system.

Philip O’Leary said he supported the findings of the Oireachtas justice committee’s 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”.

The report made 38 recommendations, including giving urgent priority to promised legislation for the establishment of a dedicated and integrated Family Court within existing court structures.

It also recommended that a full review of the legal aid scheme be conducted, with particular regard to means test rates, contribution requirements and eligibility, in order to ensure that the scheme is meeting the needs of those most vulnerable in society.

Commenting on the report, Mr O’Leary said: “Over half of all applications for civil legal aid relate to family law, and our solicitors see every day the issues highlighted in this report. I support the findings of the joint committee on justice and equality report on reform of the family justice system.

“I welcome the commitment of the Minister for Justice and Equality to shortly bring forward legislation in relation to the establishment of a Family Court. The Legal Aid Board will do what it can to assist in addressing the various issues highlighted in the Report and in this regard it will pro-actively work with other stake-holders.”

He added: “I note the recommendation that a full review of the legal aid scheme be conducted with particular regard to means test rates, contribution requirements and eligibility.

“The Legal Aid Board made a detailed submission on these matters for the Department of Justice and Equality. I understand that there are no plans at present to amend the eligibility and contribution thresholds but we will assist the Minister and his Department in any further review that may be undertaken.”



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