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27 April 2022

Political Parties set out key justice priorities

Northern Ireland Political Parties set out their key justice priorities ahead of Assembly poll

Representatives from Northern Ireland’s Political Parties outlined their Justice priorities ahead of the next mandate, as part of a pre-election event hosted by the Law Society this afternoon (Tuesday).

The panel discussion was chaired by broadcaster Mark Carruthers and included John Finucane MP and former Justice Minister, David Ford. Assembly election candidates Mervyn Storey, Dolores Kelly, Doug Beattie, and Rachel Woods also participated.

Access to Justice was a focal point of the discussion, with each panellist pledging how their party will protect those on low incomes amid the escalating cost of living crisis. The candidates were asked how they will commit to fixing the issues that have long plagued Northern Ireland’s justice system.

Earlier this month, the Law Society launched its ‘Justice Agenda’, the first of its kind in the Society’s 100-year history, setting out 10 strategic priorities that require urgent attention, including:

·         Protecting the Legal Aid Budget - a ring-fenced budget of not less than £82 million is necessary to protect Access to Justice for our most vulnerable citizens.

·         Closing the Access to Justice Gap – increasing the outdated financial eligibility thresholds for civil legal aid to ensure those on lower incomes have their rights protected.

·         Court Recovery – urgent investment and reform of the justice system to address the five-year backlog of our Courts and to prevent further harm being caused to victims and witnesses.

The Law Society is also calling for progress to address Legacy issues and measures to support economic recovery.

Following the pre-election event, President of the Law Society of Northern Ireland, Brigid Napier said:

“The Law Society’s Justice Agenda was launched to outline the priorities for rebuilding our justice system which, like so many areas of life, is still recovering from the pandemic. The unprecedented cost of living crisis is continuing to escalate; thus, it is more important than ever that those in power protect our most vulnerable by ensuring they have Access to Justice.”

“The Law Society remains committed to working constructively with the incoming Executive and the next Justice Minister to ensure we have a system that is fit for purpose. Access to Justice must be at the centre of the next Programme for Government and the aim must be to deliver the Justice system that the people of Northern Ireland deserve.”



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