Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland's legal aid dispute resolved

A dispute between Northern Ireland's Justice Minister David Ford and lawyers over cuts to legal aid payments has been resolved.

The row has resulted in delays in more than 900 court cases.

The reforms were introduced after the Department of Justice faced reductions to its budget. Mr Ford had said Northern Ireland could not continue to fund the UK's highest level of legal aid pay.

Barristers and solicitors claimed the reduced rates would undermine their ability to properly represent clients who could not afford pay legal fees.

Mr Ford introduced the cuts to payments to lawyers in May of last year and lawyers withdrew from new criminal cases requiring legal aid in protest at the changes.

The lawyers' strike will end on Friday. The breakthrough follows new talks, chaired by a senior English barrister, which began on Wednesday.

In a joint statement, The Law Society, Bar Council and the Department of Justice said they were "pleased to report that an agreement has been reached".

"All parties have worked to achieve this outcome in the interests of ensuring the continued effective and efficient operation of the criminal justice system in this jurisdiction."

Justice Minister David Ford said: "The immediate return to representation for defendants will allow the justice system to continue in an effective and efficient manner."

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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