Minister McEntee launches the Legal Aid Board Annual Report 2019
Over 24,000 people assisted by Legal Aid Board in 2019
2 new co-located law centres and family mediation offices opened in Portlaoise and Letterkenny during 2019
2019 marks 40th Anniversary of Legal Aid Board
8 October 2020
The Minister for Justice , Helen McEntee TD, today launched the 2019 Annual Report of the Legal Aid Board. The Legal Aid Board is a statutory independent body responsible for the provision of civil legal aid and advice to people of modest means in accordance with the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995.
Launching the report, Minister McEntee said,
“I am very pleased to launch the 2019 Annual Report of the Legal Aid Board and would like to thank the Chairperson, Mr. Philip O’Leary, the members of the Board and the Chief Executive, Mr John McDaid, and all staff for their dedicated work during the year - work which continues during this current difficult period.”
The Minister continued:
“2019 has been a landmark year for the Legal Aid Board. It celebrated its 40th anniversary last December and has played an essential role in society in those over those four decades. It is a testament to the work of the Board that it has assisted 600,000 people since its establishment.”
The Minister also welcomed the work of the Board on the Abhaile scheme. She noted that 2019 marked the third full operational year of the Scheme, which was launched in 2016.
Abhaile provides financial and legal assistance for people experiencing insolvency and who are in danger of having their home repossessed. The scheme, originally due to conclude at the end of the year, has been formally extended to 2021.
The Minister also noted the Board’s work on family mediation, and welcomed the opening during 2019 of two new co-located law centres and family mediation offices in Portlaoise and Letterkenny.
Minister McEntee last week published the General Scheme of the Family Court Bill, which outlines reforms to the family justice system. Minister McEntee will now proceed to full drafting of the Family Court Bill.
Also speaking at the launch, Philip O’Leary, the Chairperson of the Legal Aid Board, acknowledged the work done by the Board’s staff during 2019. He said:
“We are now in a very different situation to that which applied last year. From the outset of the COVID-19 crisis the Legal Aid Board sought to ensure that its services remained available to those who needed them. The Board has responded to the fact that legal services have been formally defined as essential services.”
Welcoming the government’s approval last week to draft the Family Court Bill, Mr O’Leary said:
“The Board is effectively the largest family law practice in Ireland and the Minister has our full support in achieving these objectives.”
The report can be read in full here http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Legal_Aid_Board_Annual_Report_2019.pdf/Files/Legal_Aid_Board_Annual_Report_2019.pdf
Notes for Editors
• The Legal Aid Board is a statutory independent body responsible for the provision of civil legal aid and advice to people of modest means in accordance with the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995. The Board is also responsible for delivery of the State-funded Family Mediation Service.
• The budget allocation for 2020 is €42.2 million - which is an increase of 3% on 2019.
• There were 24,356 applications for the Board’s services in 2019, of which 15,458 were for Civil Legal Aid, 2,539 for International Protection and 1,137 related to the Abhaile scheme. 5,222 people applied for Family Mediation Services.
• The Legal Aid Board’s law centre network handled over 17,400 legal aid and advice cases in 2019, 67% of which were in the area of family law. In addition, private solicitors are engaged by the Board to provide legal aid services to complement the service provided by law centres. In 2019, 9,981 such cases were referred to private solicitors, an increase of 1,191 on 2018.
• While there was an increase in the number of people seeking legal consultations on foot of the Scheme (from 782 in 2018 to 1,169 in 2019), the number of legal aid certificates granted to take proceedings to have proposed Personal Insolvency Applications approved by the Courts dropped from 591 in 2018 to 352 in 2019.
• Mediation provides an avenue for separating couples to reach their own agreement on issues such as parenting arrangements, thereby reducing the number of such cases being pursued through the Courts. In 2019 a total of 2,611 new couples attended family mediation and 1,212 formal mediated agreements were reached during the course of the year.
• The Board has 16 family mediation offices in total. Six of those are co-located with law centres in Jervis House, Dundalk, Tallaght, Kilkenny, Letterkenny and Portlaoise. The services also has one full time court based service in the District Family Court in Dublin (Dolphin House).
• While it is the Courts, through the judiciary, that are responsible for the granting of legal aid in criminal cases, the Legal Aid Board is currently responsible for the administration and management of three of the five criminal legal aid schemes. They are as follows:
The Garda Station Legal Advice Revised Scheme
The Legal Aid – Custody Issues Scheme
The Criminal Assets Bureau Ad-hoc Legal Aid Scheme
The Board continued to provide a prioritised service where it was considered that an immediate, or near immediate, service was required. In 2019 approximately 32% of first appointments were for prioritised matters. These included cases of domestic violence, child abduction, cases involving applications by the State to take children into care, and cases that had statutory time limits close to expiry.