Radical reform of NI Legal Services Commission needed

Brendan McGuigan has called for radical reform of the Northern Ireland Legal Services Commission in order to stop increasing legal aid costs and inefficiencies. View Report Page
The Chief Inspector said the current situation could not continue as in the present economic climate, legal aid was becoming a facility the justice system was struggling to afford especially as cuts made to the budgets of other criminal justice organisations began to bite.
"In the10 years from 2002-03 to 2012-13, the annual legal aid bill has more than doubled to £94.5m.  The NILSC has also failed to remain within budget for the last three financial years and this situation will occur again this year," he said.
The Chief Inspector indicated a framework for the granting of legal aid need to be set up as the current structures inhibited the ability of the NILSC to forecast its expenditure with any level of accuracy.
Mr McGuigan called on the Department of Justice to implement the strategic recommendation contained in the CJI report and to use it as a platform to address other areas for improvement.
"There is a need to ensure a comprehensive discussion takes place on this issue so that in seeking to reduce the amount of public money spent on legal aid and gain greater budgetary control, the future requirements of society and the needs of individuals whose circumstances necessitate access to legal representation in the interest of justice, are maintained," concluded the Chief Inspector.