FLAC seeks full consultation with civil society organisations, State bodies and the public before recommendations of Civil Justice Review are implemented.
7 December 2020
FLAC is writing to the Minister for Justice seeking a commitment to a full consultation process with those most affected by the implementation of recommendations of the Review of the Administration of Civil Justice, which was published today. Eilis Barry, Chief Executive of FLAC, stated that “the report of the of the Review Group is important to every citizen in the State, but particularly those who are disadvantaged, as it examines the administration of civil justice with a view to improving access to justice and reducing the cost of litigation including costs to the State. FLAC will consider the contents of the report over the coming weeks, but our first priority is to ensure that there is proper consultation prior to the implementation of the recommendations of the report.”
The Review Group was established to review and reform the administration of civil justice in the State and to make recommendations for changes with a view to improving access to civil justice in the State. With the publication of the Report, it is important that the recommendations are carefully assessed to ensure that they achieve the stated objective of improving access to justice in the State.
FLAC recognises and appreciates the considerable experience and expertise that have been brought to bear by the Review Group and the significant work that has been carried out by the Review Group in preparing this mammoth Report, the largest review of its kind. The Review Group, chaired by Mr Justice Peter Kelly, included members of the judiciary, civil servants, representatives from the Courts Service, the Attorney General’s Office and the Chief State Solicitor’s Office, the Bar of Ireland and the Law Society.
Given the potentially significant implications of the Review for access to justice in the State, it is essential that there is consultation with a wider range of stakeholders who will be affected by the proposals in the Report prior to their implementation. Such consultation should include statutory bodies with an important role in this field such as the Legal Aid Board, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, the National Disability Authority and the Citizens Information Board. It should also include representatives from civil society or independent law centres like FLAC, Mercy Law Resource Centre, the Immigrant Council of Ireland, the Irish Refugee Council and Community Law and Mediation, that provide legal services, advice and information to thousands of individuals and families every year who otherwise would have no access to justice. In addition, it should involve groups that provide information, legal advice and advocacy to lay litigants such as FLAC, MABS and the Citizens Information Services as well as academics with expertise on access to justice.
Such an approach would be consistent with the approach to other major reviews in the justice sector in recent years, such as the Strategic Review on Penal Policy and the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.
Eilis Barry added
“We very much welcome the Minister’s commitment to improving access to justice and accordingly we are asking the Minister to commit to a broad and meaningful consultation process with external stakeholders. This should include people who are most likely to be affected by the implementation of this report and representatives such as lay litigants, FLAC and other independent law centres, the Legal Aid Board and other relevant statutory bodies and academics on the contents of the report and its implementation.
Every member of the public has a stake in how our system of civil justice is delivered, and should have a say in how it is improved, not just those who are already part of the system.”.