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Friday 8 December 2023 Dublin: 9°C
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Civil liberties group calls on Government to restore barrister legal aid fees

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) said that the Government should invest €8.6 million in a number of human rights measures.

AN IRISH CIVIL liberties group has called on Government to provide €3.3m to restore legal aid fees for barristers.

In their pre-budget submission the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) said that the Government should invest €8.6 million – that would equate to a 0.01% increase in the sector’s budget.

A recent campaign has seen barristers protest outside courts in a campaign for greater pay.

The junior and senior lawyers said that the current rate of pay for District Court appearances is unsustainable in March of this year. 

Barrister Darren Lalor, who was one of the organisers of the protest said that the pay situation is at a point where many of his colleagues are leaving the profession. 

Ireland is not the only country with industrial relations concerns amongst lawyers, with the UK seeing barristers take strike action to increase fees.

Lalor welcomed the recommendation: “The rights of victims of crime and those accused of crime can only be vindicated if legal representation for each is properly funded.

“Anything less is a breach of the Rule of Law. The current situation in Courts in England and Wales spells out the consequences if the funding issue is not resolved.

“Rates of pay fixed in 2002 cannot be compliant with Rule of Law requirements.” 

ICCL Director Liam Herrick said their proposal was a “modest investment” in human rights.   

“In many cases, our requests will actually save the public money in the long term as investment now will prevent expensive investigations and legal cases in the future.

“The government has a duty to protect human rights. These rights aren’t abstract and require spending to ensure that they are protected and realised,” he said.  

The UCCL proposes that six areas would see investment – this includes the coroners’ system they said “would provide compassion and justice for the bereaved” at a cost of €1.3m.

They have also recommended a similar digital system to one in Belgium which would “ensure the right to a legal defence” which would cost €500,000.

ICCL called for €450,000 to be spent on an education campaign to protect people who are victims of hate crime.

The group has also recommended for €300,000 external review of the Data Protection Commission and also more resources for the new office of the Inspector of Places of Detention which would cost €2.55m. 

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