Belfast Telegraph

Justice Minister responds to report on Legal Services Commission

Stormont Executive press release - Department of Justice

Justice Minister David Ford has welcomed a report from Criminal Justice Inspection into corporate governance at the Legal Services Commission.

David Ford said: “I welcome today’s report by Criminal Justice Inspection. I am happy to accept the strategic recommendation and the proposals set out in the areas for improvement. Work on all of these is already underway. 

“The accountability of the legal aid system was inadequate for many years, as the report recognises, and I inherited those problems on devolution. At the same time it would only be right to acknowledge the work of the Board and the Senior Management of the Commission, who had to contend with weaknesses in the arrangements for legal aid which existed under direct rule. 

“I identified legal aid reform as one of my key priorities when I became Minister of Justice and my Department moved very quickly to introduce reforms. Within six months I published proposals for new Crown Court fees, which introduced new financial controls and my Department set up new, more effective, governance arrangements for the Northern Ireland Legal Services Commission. 

“I also announced the Access to Justice Review, which published its final report in September 2011. In my response to the Review, I published a Departmental Action Plan which included seven key projects to improve governance and accountability and work on those projects has been underway since last year. 

“I accept that there is more work to do, both for my Department and the Commission, and CJINI’s strategic recommendation provides a foundation for this. All of the areas for improvement set out in the report are being addressed by the work which is now underway. In addition, I recently announced that I would be commissioning a further review, and part of the work of that review will be to examine whether there are any gaps in the work which is currently being taken forward.”

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