Restrictions to resources at Legal Aid Board ignores best interests of children

Published on: 27 July 2017

Fianna Fáil Senator and Seanad Spokesperson for Justice, Children and Youth Affairs, Lorraine Clifford-Lee has said that the restrictions imposed at the Legal Aid Board to no longer provide open access to legal representation matters of family law, are severely regressive.

Due to budgetary constants the Legal Aid Board will from later this month, restrict access to legal representation in District Court family law cases to “priority matters.”

The Fingal based Senator, who is also a practicing family law solicitor explained, “Access to justice is a basic principle of the rule of law. It is the obligation of this State to provide every citizen with the ability to access legal representation to seek remedy to a difficult domestic situation, particularly when there are children involved.

“The Legal Aid Board have experienced severe cutbacks in recent years and have been forced to introduce restrictions. This decision, which has been made when the Dáil and Seanad are both out of session will have severe implications on the existing backlog to have these cases dealt with appropriately.

“Proceedings of this nature are sensitive and stressful and which can be further worsened when left without legal representation, particularly if a former partner can afford to pay for legal representation privately.

“For many, these restrictions to resources will now mean being left without representation in court when trying to pursue cases involving access, maintenance, custody and guardianship.

“I have previously called for an increase to funding to ensure vulnerable people get legal advice and representation. The Minister really needs to address this urgently to ensure that children remain central to these applications,” concluded Senator Clifford-Lee.

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