Belfast Telegraph

Justice Minister in dock over his changes to legal aid

By John Porter

Barristers and solicitors are to take Justice Minister David Ford to court over changes to legal aid.

It comes after one of Northern Ireland's top law firms announced it was withdrawing from all its major criminal cases in protest over the introduction of the new regime.

At a court hearing yesterday, a solicitor for KRW Law, Joe McVeigh, declared he would not be seeking legal aid to represent his client or instruct barristers.

Mr McVeigh said he would no longer be involved in the case as part of a protest against the new legal aid rules and reduced fees introduced at the start of the month.

He described the rules as "a cynical and vicious attack" on defence lawyers by the Justice Department and said that those accused of serious crimes would not be properly represented.

After he announced his firm was withdrawing from all of the more serious cases, other solicitors in the courtroom applauded.

"We can't resource these extremely difficult cases for the fees that have been set out by the Department of Justice," Mr McVeigh said.

Both solicitor and barrister groups met separately to discuss their response to the measures.

They claim the rules are illegal and are to take legal action against the Justice Minister.

Mr Ford has said the new measures are both essential and fair and what was required for his department to work within its budget.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph