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07 October 2013

Debate Needed On Legal Aid

 

Members of the legal profession and judiciary were amongst distinguished guests invited to the annual Law Society Council Dinner which took place at Belfast City Hall on Friday 4th October 2013. Those attending the event had the opportunity to hear from two key note speeches from Mr Michael Caplan QC and from the President of the Society, Mr Michael Robinson addressed the 200 plus audience on the issues and challenges facing the legal profession in Northern Ireland.

In his key note address to attendees the President said:

"Tonight I am calling for the Department of Justice, the Legal Services Commission and the legal community to join together to forge a way through these challenges.

Tonight I call upon the Minister to establish an inclusive Review Group and to invite the Law Society with other key players, to participate in this to identify core efficiencies in the justice system, to consider in detail the evidence and the impact assessments and to protect access to justice.

urge the Department of Justice to step back from the present drip feed of legal aid cuts and to take a holistic view of how we can make our system more cost efficient whilst protecting the rights of our people.

We need a vision, an awareness of value as well as cost and a clear set of goals to be achieved.

These current proposals are none of the above. They put the cart before the horse and that is no way to conduct policy. I state clearly that these legal aid consultations should be shelved pending the outcome of the Review I am calling for.

It has been my intention tonight to spark a debate on these real and important issues. I invite you to join me in that debate in a spirit which demonstrates our combined recognition of and commitment to finding lasting and workable solutions for the benefit of the community and those in need".