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Calls to scrap legal aid fees for domestic violence cases grow

Calls to scrap legal aid fees for domestic violence cases grow

Calls to scrap legal aid fees for domestic violence cases grow

Keith Walsh

The Law Society of Ireland and FLAC have renewed their calls for the Government to remove economic barriers for vulnerable people in domestic violence cases by scrapping the fee for accessing legal representation.

FLAC chief executive Éilís Barry, speaking ahead of the launch of FLAC’s annual report, said civil legal aid fees “should be automatically waived for victims of domestic violence when seeking safety, protection or barring orders”.

Ms Barry added: “The Law Society of Ireland has also echoed our call to drop these charges. We are hopeful the Minister and the Legal Aid Board will heed these calls and remove this financial barrier for victims seeking crucial legal protections.”

The Law Society made eight recommendations in its recent submission to the Department of Justice on the Domestic Violence Bill.

Solicitor Keith Walsh, chair of the Law Society’s family and child law committee, said: “Domestic violence cases are some of the most heart-wrenching and difficult briefs a solicitor can work on. Around one in five women in Ireland who have been in a relationship have been abused by a current or former partner, and evidence shows there is a growing trend in men reporting being abused as well.”

Mr Walsh added: “We support the Chief Executive of FLAC, Éilís Barry, in her call for the removal of the fee attached to accessing legal aid in this situations and call on the Minister for Justice and Equality to urgently review the matter. Indeed the matter has even been noted as one of concern in a recent United Nations report, which called for the Irish Government to end the requirement for victims of domestic violence to make financial contributions for civil legal aid.

“The Law Society and its members believe in access to justice and the protection of legal aid in the State. We support the view that this access fee to legal aid is outdated and, as we have seen reported, can result in outcomes that do not serve to protect the victims of domestic violence.”