Fianna Fáil Senator and Seanad Spokesperson for Justice, Lorraine Clifford-Lee, has said the minimum contribution payment towards civil legal aid when making a domestic violence related application to the District Court, should be significantly lowered.
The Senator recently raised her concerns with the Chairman of the Legal Aid Board, Mr. Philip O’Leary during the Joint Oireachtas Justice and Equality Committee.
“Over the past two years, leading organisation Women’s Aid has reported alarmingly high figures of domestic violence related crimes. In fact, some 11,000 incidents of domestic violence are reported in Ireland annually, yet only few result in arrest or conviction,” explained Clifford-Lee.
“Those who are courageous enough to walk out of their home, brave enough to take that leap and get away from their abuser must be better protected by our State.
“The last Government more than doubled the minimum contribution payment from €50 to €130. Victims of domestic violence are required to make this payment if they wish to have legal representation through the Legal Aid Board which puts an intolerable burden on these people at a very sensitive time.
“The very strict financial criteria often acts as a barrier to many victims receiving legal representation through the Legal Aid Board and sufficient access to justice. In many cases, this means being left without representation in court.
“During a time when more focus needs to be placed on supporting the victims of domestic abuse and sexual crime in Ireland, lengthy waiting times for legal aid support must be alleviated. A review of eligibility for legal aid and the waiver scheme must be undertaken by this Government as soon as possible to offer better support to victims seeking justice,” concluded Senator Clifford-Lee.