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18 June 2010

JUS 04/09/10


The Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Justice has turned its attention to the soaring cost of the Legal Aid bill in Northern Ireland and the proposed changes to the system.

Representatives from the Law Society for Northern Ireland and the Bar Council attended the Committee meeting yesterday to discuss Legal Aid funding and answer questions on concerns they have raised about the proposed changes which are aimed at reducing the cost of Legal Aid.

Speaking after the meeting Chairman of the Committee, Lord Morrow, MLA said: “The Committee is committed to ensuring access to justice. However, there is clearly a need to tackle the soaring cost of legal aid in Northern Ireland 1 which is significantly higher than in most other countries. The monies made available for policing and justice following devolution will mean the Legal Aid bill will need to be reduced by a quarter by 2013 (from £104 million to £79 million) to avoid possible impact on other essential services such as education or health.
“The Committee is aware that the Law Society and the Bar Council are in negotiation with the Courts Service on parts of the proposed changes and we wanted to hear their views before reaching any decisions. The Committee has made it clear that any alternative proposals put forward for consideration by either organisation must deliver the necessary reductions in cost.”
Notes to Editors:

1. The cost of Legal Aid in Northern Ireland has more than doubled in the last 10 years from £38 million in 2000/01 to £103 million in 2009/10.

Membership of the Committee:

The Chairman of the Committee is Lord Morrow MLA.
The Deputy Chairman is Raymond McCartney MLA.

The Committee has a further nine members:

Mr Jonathan Bell MLA
Mr Tom Elliott MLA
Mr Alban Maginness MLA
Mr Conall McDevitt MLA
Mr David McNarry MLA
Ms Carál Ní Chuilín MLA
Mr John O'Dowd MLA
Mr Alastair Ross MLA

All enquiries regarding the work of the Committee should be directed to the Committee Clerk:

Christine Darrah
Room 242, Parliament Buildings,
Ballymiscaw, Stormont, Belfast, BT4 3XX
Telephone: (028) 9052 1629
Fax: (028) 9052 1371

Media enquiries to:

Jennifer Pleavin
Communications Officer
Northern Ireland Assembly
Phone: 028 9052 1606
Mobile : 07502 379339

Sinead Murphy
Deputy Communications Officer
Northern Ireland Assembly
Phone: 028 9052 5938
Mobile : 07899 864368