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David Ford's pledge over justice shake-up

By Michael McHugh

Published 07/11/2015

Justice Minister David Ford
Justice Minister David Ford

Stormont's justice minister has vowed to listen to as many views as possible on his plans to overhaul the justice system.

A report ordered by David Ford and published earlier in the week has made 150 wide-ranging recommendations aimed at reducing costs and improving the experience of those involved in the justice process.

Among its recommendations, the Access to Justice Review Part II report called for a radical reduction in the use of two barristers in state-funded cases. It argued that paying senior and junior counsel in complex hearings was no longer affordable because of the need to maintain support for family cases and other priorities.

The cost of public legal aid for those who cannot afford to pay lawyers has remained stubbornly high in recent years despite a period of austerity which has seen substantial reductions in most other areas of public spending.

On Friday, Mr Ford emphasised the need for feedback on the plans as he addressed a conference organised by the University of Ulster Law Clinic and the Law Centre Northern Ireland.

"This provides an opportunity to start the engagement process and I'm keen to hear as many views as possible," he said.

"Although the report is not just about legal aid, it understandably does have much to say on the subject. We currently have a comprehensive - and very expensive - legal aid scheme and we need to redesign it if it is to be sustainable into the future."

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