27 April 2023
Publicly-funded legal services cuts will disadvantage vulnerable
Legal professions issue warning that cuts to publicly-funded legal services will disadvantage society’s most vulnerable.
The Law Society and the Bar Council – which respectively represent solicitors and barristers in Northern Ireland – have written jointly to the Secretary of State and the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee warning of a ‘catastrophe for access to justice’ if publicly-funded legal services face further budget cuts.
The bodies outlined the importance of access to justice as a fundamental element of a fair and democratic society. They also detailed the current poor state of Northern Ireland’s Justice System with long delays in our courts impacting on victims and witnesses and a backlog of cases.
Budget cuts applied to an already creaking Justice System have the potential to force many barristers and solicitors to stop offering legal aid services or cease practising altogether, ultimately denying access to justice to those across society who require it.
David Mulholland, Chief Executive of the Bar of Northern Ireland, commented:
“Legally-funded public services exist to help people – quite often the most vulnerable people facing the most challenging circumstances. Whether it is a parent seeking access to their child in a matrimonial dispute or someone defending a criminal charge, everyone deserves access to legal advice and representation when they need it. If cuts are applied to the Legal Aid budget, we are looking at a very real threat to the viability of many practices, particularly those of younger, female barristers.
David Lavery CB, Chief Executive of the Law Society of Northern Ireland continued:
“We are calling for the budget to prioritise and protect this vital support to the vulnerable members of our society - failure to do so risks doing generational harm to Access to Justice in this jurisdiction. Looking further ahead – a new Executive must prioritise reform of the Justice system before it ends up in a similar crisis to that of the health service.”
Notes to editors
1tThe Law Society of Northern Ireland is the professional body for the solicitor profession in Northern Ireland. As a member organisation the Society represents and supports its nearly 6,000 members, including solicitors working in the public, private and third sectors.
2. The Bar of Northern Ireland is a profession of barristers in independent practice with a unique specialism and expertise in legal advocacy. The Bar of Northern Ireland encompasses around 600 self – employed barristers working from the Bar Library building in Belfast.
3. The professional bodies’ letter to the Secretary of State can be seen here:
and submission to the NI Affairs Committee is published here:
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