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Call for limit on free legal aid for repeat offenders

The call has come from a Galway Joint Policing Committee and has been put to the Minister for Justice.

Image: €50 notes via Shutterstock

A JOINT POLICING Committee has called for a cap to be put on the amount of times people can be given free legal aid, specifically in the case of criminals.

Fine Gael Councillor Peter Roche, chairman of Galway’s Joint Policing Committee, told Newstalk Breakfast today about the idea.

He said that Galway City Council had put together a motion on the issue, and had sent on the motion to the Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter.

Review

He said that they were requesting that the free legal aid scheme be reviewed so that offenders can only avail of it for a certain length of time, and that repeat offenders might find themselves refused “because of bad habits”.

He said there was all-party agreement and non-party agreement for the stance that the committee adopted, and that every person was able to instance a case where someone had received free legal aid and “been through the system repeatedly”.

He described it as “nonsense” for Ireland to be handing out free legal aid to repeat criminals and said the €50.5 million spent last year on legal aid could be used for other things, such as hospitals.

The committee is now asking an Oireachtas committee to investigate the situation with legal aid.

He said that he believed free legal aid shouldn’t be given to people if they were through the system a second or third time if  they are “in a habit” and “are they starting to repeat themselves”.

He believes that free legal aid is a “gravy train” for some solicitors.

“We can’t be supporting the would-be criminal,” said Cllr Roche. “Let’s focus on how we can support the vulnerable citizens in society.”

Minister Shatter told the committee that he is restricted under EU laws and the Constitution with regard to limiting free legal aid if people’s means suggest they can’t afford legal fees.

Roche said that the limit would not apply in the case of non-payment of a fine, but would for criminal cases such as theft or robbery.

Read: Free legal advice service sees demand increase>

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