Call to drop legal fees in domestic violence cases

Victims of domestic violence should not have to pay legal fees, as it is preventing those in desperate situations from seeking help.

FLAC, the network of Free Legal Advice Centres, called on the Legal Aid Board to drop legal fees for victims of domestic violence ahead of the launch today of its 2016 annual report which shows that 25,710 people received legal advice from volunteer lawyers at its nationwide network of advice clinics or through its helpline.

FLAC chief executive Eilis Barry said civil legal aid fees should be automatically waived for victims of domestic violence when seeking safety, protection, or barring orders.

Last March, a UN committee recommended that Ireland end the requirement for victims of domestic violence to make financial contributions for civil legal aid when seeking court protection.

“The UN has now followed this on July 14 with a general comment urging states to ensure access to ‘financial aid and free or low-cost high- quality legal aid’,” said Ms Barry. “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.”

She said the numbers seeking advice last year demonstrated an acute need for legal advice and aid.

She also welcomed the announcement of the Legal Aid Board to defer its decision to restrict referrals to the district court family law private practitioners to priority matters — domestic violence and enforcement of maintenance, but not access, custody or guardianship.

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