Proposed legal aid cuts will hit disadvantaged
The Department of Justice has recently issued consultations proposing further cuts to Civil and Criminal Legal Aid funding.
As president of the Law Society of Northern Ireland, I have been once again struck by the response of the media and elected politicians to further proposals to reduce the budget for Legal Aid in Northern Ireland.
It is a sad realisation that, in all the recent reporting about Legal Aid and, the proposals by the Minister of Justice to impose these further cuts, no-one has asked what the social impact of the proposed cuts will be.
It seems to be accepted without question that reducing Legal Aid expenditure can only be a good thing so why should anybody care? We should all care!
Sensationalist headlines are used to make the cuts more palatable to the public.
The real story is that our devolved administration is committed to significant reductions in Legal Aid funding – funding designed to fundamentally allow those in difficulty to access the legal help and advice needed in a complex society, with unique issues of social deprivation.
It is a fact that with increasing cuts to Legal Aid funding we run the risk that key areas of legal advice and representation will be closed to those who need help.
It is time to look more closely at the issue and to realise that, behind the attractive headlines, there is a real debate that has not yet begun.
Law Society of NI president