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Legal cuts will have a knock-on effect at Christmas

AS we approach Christmas, many of us look forward to the celebrations, the fun and the cheer.

For many, though, Christmas is a lonely, sad time. It can be a time when families come under pressure and cracks in relationships emerge.

It can also be a time when people attend parties, consume too much alcohol, emotions run high and events get out of control.

Many solicitors will be on call 24/7 over the Christmas period. They'll receive calls from clients in need of the law.

Some clients will find themselves in trouble and violence, or disorderly behaviour may have occurred.

The current round of legal aid cuts proposed by the Minister for Justice is of deep concern to the Law Society.

The cuts are so deep and so widespread that the impact will be that clients, such as those who will need help over the holiday period, may not in future have such access to a solicitor.

The society has asked the minister to suspend the cuts and to review the justice system to identify efficiencies, rather than simply cutting payment rates again.

The society has also asked that the department conduct a full assessment of the impact of the cuts on the availability of solicitors to do this work.

The society will continue to meet with the minister to press the case for a fundamental review of the system prior to any decision on cuts.

RICHARD PALMER

President, Law Society of Northern Ireland

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