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Question

374. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the funding that has been spent since 2012 on free legal aid; the number of persons this has served; the allocation by county in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44599/18]

Answer

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I wish to inform the Deputy that the provision of legal aid falls in two categories, that is, civil legal aid and criminal legal aid. Details in respect of each are outlined below.
Civil Legal Aid
The provision of civil legal aid in the State is delivered by the Legal Aid Board pursuant to the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995 and the Civil Legal Aid Regulations 1996 to 2017. The Board operates 30 full time law centres and a number of part time law centres in Ireland. The Board also provides mediation services to help separating couples to negotiate their own agreement.
The majority of the Board's income consists of a grant received from the Department of Justice and Equality. This funding is used to provide the Board's services in all its offices across the country, as well as the support services provided to law centres centrally from the Board's head office.
It is not possible to extract and isolate the total cost of civil legal aid in any one office/county in a given year as it would be necessary to devise a basis on which to attribute, to each county, all expenditure incurred by the Board centrally. Complexities may also arise at local level with regard to the delivery of civil legal aid, for example a client living in County Limerick may choose to apply to Ennis Law Centre. Also, in a case where two parties to a dispute seek the services of the Board at one law centre, one party will be required to engage with a different law centre, which may be in a neighbouring county.
Funding provided to the Legal Aid Board by my Department for the last seven years is provided in the following table.

Year Budget Allocation €m
2018 40.275
2017 38.988
2016 34.838
2015 32.471
2014 32.574
2013 33.759
2012 32.922

The following table sets out the number of cases handled in Legal Aid Board law centres, and the number of cases referred by the Legal Aid Board to private solicitors each year in the period 2012-2017.

Year 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Cases handled in law centres* 17,652 17,304 18,338 17,959 17,213 18,170
Referred to solicitors panels** 5,082 5,640 5,241 5,534 5,923 8,532

*Cases handled in law centres include international protection (asylum) cases in 2017 only. Comparable data in relation to such cases is not available in previous years.
**Referrals to solicitors panels include Abhaile cases in 2016 and 2017 only. The Abhaile scheme started on 22 nd July 2016.
Criminal Legal Aid
The Criminal Justice (Legal Aid) Act 1962, which is the primary legislation covering the operation of the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, provides that free legal aid may be granted, in certain circumstances, for the defence of persons of insufficient means in criminal proceedings. Under the 1962 Act, the courts, through the judiciary, are responsible for the granting of legal aid. Under the Constitution, the State is obliged to provide an accused person with the means to obtain appropriate legal representation.
Expenditure on criminal legal aid since 2012 is set out in the Table below along with data provided by the Courts Service regarding the number of legal aid certificates granted in the District Court. It should be noted the number of certificates does not equate to the number of persons granted criminal legal aid as more than one certificate may be granted to any one person. The number of legal aid certificates granted by the District Court in October 2018 is not yet available.
Statistics are not compiled in such a manner as to readily identify expenditure on a county by county basis .

Year Number of Certificates Granted Expenditure
2012 49,639 €50.534m
2013 49,843 €50.863m
2014 51,128 €49.890m
2015 53,937 €50.879m
2016 55,617 €52,998m
2017 64,181 €58,139m
2018 52,636 (to end of September) 49,230m (to end of October)