The court heard some people in family law cases in Kerry are waiting seven months and more before they get to consult a solicitor assigned by the legal aid board.
A Legal Aid Board spokesman has confirmed: “Nationally, there were 5,383 persons waiting to access legal services as at September 1. Waiting times have increased significantly in recent years due to the huge increase in demand for the board’s services since the economic downturn, largely reflecting the much greater number of people who are now financially eligible for civil legal aid.” The majority of these cases waiting to access legal aid are family law cases, the legal aid board has confirmed.
Family law court is held in private. However senior practitioners have confirmed that the lists have ballooned and delays at the moment were “chronic”. The backlog in even getting access to a solicitor for a proper consultation is jamming the court lists.
The Legal Aid Board yesterday confirmed there was an increase in volume in family law and other civil applications and the lengthy wait in accessing legal aid services in the southwest.
In one law centre in Cork (Popes Quay) the wait between making an application for civil legal aid and having a substantive consultation with a solicitor is 12 months; while in the second Cork centre (South Mall) it is 14 months.
However, for domestic violence cases and child care cases involving the HSE there was “a priority service” and these did not have to go on a waiting list, the spokesman stressed.
A divorce and division of property; maintenance; separation and such are not considered priority applications for legal aid.
Meanwhile, 10 of the 14 matters on the family law list in Killarney yesterday were motions from the county registrar’s list from Monday to highlight delays in parties obtaining legal aid — there were delays in all cases involving legal aid, a solicitor told Judge Thomas E O’Donnell.