FLAC welcomes steps on law reforms

24 June 2011

FLAC welcomes the early introduction of a new Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. The Bill, which was due to be introduced in the autumn of 2011 has been brought forward and will make some important legal changes. These include the provision of legal advice to the victims of human trafficking and the introduction of an automatic discharge period from bankruptcy. Bankruptcy will now be automatically discharged after12 years. Previously it lasted indefinitely. The Bill also allows a bankrupt to apply for release from bankruptcy after 5 years instead of 12 years, as it currently stands.

This, according to FLAC, a legal rights organisation, is a small step forward in improving the position of those who are seriously over indebted. However, according to FLAC's Director General Noeline Blackwell "This is only one very small part of the jigsaw. There needs to be a much wider debt settlement scheme put in place which does not just benefit those who have been wealthy and can afford to use the bankruptcy procedures. What is needed is a holistic non-judicial debt settlement procedure in order to deal with the terrible over-indebtedness that is crippling the lives of many people for whom bankruptcy is not a practical option."

On the question of the victims of human trafficking, Ms. Blackwell said that the provision of legal advice is very welcome but FLAC would also want to be satisfied that where victims need legal representation in court, they would be able to get it. The Bill is not clear on this point.


Editors' notes:
1. FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is an independent human rights organisation which works to promote equal access to justice for all. It runs a lo-call telephone information line giving general legal information and supports a network of volunteer-run evening FLAC clinics around Ireland (35 in Dublin and 52 in other parts of the country).
2. FLAC has produced research reports in the area of personal debt: 'An Ends Based Means' and 'To No One's Credit' in 2003 and 2009 respectively.
3. The Law Reform Commission has also produced a comprehensive report on this issue in 2009: 'Personal Debt Management and Debt Enforcement'.