03 February 2022
Proposed cuts Justice budget catastrophic impact on most vulnerable
The legal profession in Northern Ireland have warned
that proposed cuts to the Justice Budget contained within the Executive Budget
will undermine Access to Justice.
The Bar of Northern Ireland and The Law Society of
Northern Ireland have jointly expressed their deep concerns and opposition to
proposed financial cuts which will have a catastrophic impact on the most
vulnerable within the community.
Representatives from the Bar and the Law Society have
been meeting with Assembly Members to raise practitioners’ concerns over the
proposed cuts that come at a time when the Justice system is already facing a
huge backlog of cases and unacceptable delay.
Both the Bar and the Law Society argue that the
proposed cuts contained in the Executive’s Draft Budget will have a detrimental
impact on the local economy, forcing many solicitors and barristers to cease
practice or restrict their services.
This is in stark contrast to the plans of other neighboring
jurisdictions, particularly England and Wales, who have invested in both Justice
and Heath System.
The Chief Executive of the Law Society of Northern
Ireland, David Lavery CB said:
“Lawyers are all too aware of the significant strains
under which the Justice system is now operating and the real impact that these
proposals will have on their clients, the community and their ability to access
justice in Northern Ireland.
Under these proposals, the most vulnerable in our
society will be denied access to justice and there will be a significant
economic impact as many practices across Northern Ireland will be forced to
cease offering publicly-funded services or be put out of business entirely.
The Executive must reconsider its budget proposals if
they are to maintain the network of local lawyers and the invaluable services
they provide to their communities and those in need across Northern Ireland.”
David Mulholland, Chief Executive of the Bar of
Northern Ireland said:
“In highlighting these issues, the Bar and Law Society
are speaking up for the many individuals and families within our communities
who rely upon us and Legal Aid to help them when they are at their most
The Department have acknowledged that this budget will
force barristers and solicitors out of business and will deprive our clients, often
facing complex legal issues regarding families and children, of the help and
assistance that they need and deserve.
This will cause untold and irreversible individual,
societal and economic harm.
“The proposed budget is wholly unsustainable. It
ignores the reality that, like the Health Service, Legal Aid is demand led and
has a serious backlog of cases that must be dealt with.”
“We urgently need longer term solution and strategic
thinking from the Executive and the Justice Minister to solve this issue.”