11th hour amendment could make Legal Services Bill a tool for widening access to justice
26 November 2015
In a submission to Seanad members ahead of today’s debate on the Legal Services Regulation Bill 2011, legal rights group FLAC said the Bill as it currently stands does not sufficiently include the right of access to justice – a most important right of every person in Ireland – in its focus and remit.
FLAC has singled out four areas for immediate amendment that would mean the legislation would increase the access of people currently excluded from the legal system:
- Ensure the new oversight body for the legal professions, the Legal Services Regulatory Authority, must promote understanding of the law and legal system, as well as its current function of giving information on legal costs.
- Ensure that the new principles proposed for lawyers in the legislation match those promoted by the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers to ensure high quality services for legal clients.
- Remove sections of the Bill that limit transparency around fees in family law cases or others held in private or settled before hearing.
- To protect fairness and the public interest, introduce Protective Costs Orders that remove the personal risk to people wishing to take cases in the public interest or to seek redress from the State, but who legitimately fear financial ruin if costs are awarded against them.
FLAC Director General Noeline Blackwell said: “We know that this legislation is now in its final stages; but there is still time to incorporate these straightforward, non-controversial amendments. In addition, FLAC urges the Minister for Justice and Equality to commit to an examination of all of the barriers people experience when they seek to access the justice system in the two-year review promised in the legislation”.
The Legal Services Regulation Bill is before the Seanad today for report and final stages from 2:30pm.
- FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is a human rights organisation which exists to promote equal access to justice for all. FLAC is an NGO that relies on a combination of statutory funding, contributions from the legal professions and donations from individuals and grant-making foundations to support its work.
- FLAC offers basic legal information through its telephone information line (1890 350 250) and free legal advice through its network of 80 volunteer evening advice centres – more at www.flac.ie/help/. It also campaigns on a range of issues including consumer credit, personal debt, fairness in social welfare law, public interest law and civil legal aid. FLAC has issued numerous analyses and policy statements calling for a fairer mortgage arrears resolution process.
- You can read FLAC’s submission to the Seanad for today’s debate.
- You will find Legal Services Regulation Bill as passed by DailEireann here.
- The Tabled Amendments from Committee/Seanad stages are also available
- FLAC’s previous submission from February 2012 on the original Bill is online.