Commitment 3: Improve Access to Justice

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We will improve access to justice by reducing the cost of accessing justice, by assisting vulnerable persons and individuals with limited decision-making capacity, and by introducing more open and transparent oversight of legal practitioners.

Objective: Improve access to justice by reducing its cost, assisting those who require support and improving oversight of legal practitioners.

Status quo: The Legal Aid Board provides legal advice, for a nominal fee, on certain civil matters to those below certain income thresholds. However, there have been criticisms that high legal fees for those above the income thresholds reduces access to justice. The opaque nature of how those legal fees are calculated has also been criticised. The recently established Legal Services Regulatory Authority is charged with the oversight of legal practitioners, legal services, and creating a more transparent legal costs regime in the State as provided for under the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015.

The Irish Government recently began a scheme, Abhaile, of free legal and financial advice, as well as professional assistance, to certain borrowers who find themselves at risk of losing their home due to mortgage arrears. This initiative will seek to encourage engagement of borrowers and creditors in alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, prevent unnecessary recourse to the courts, and minimise repossessions for distressed borrowers.

Ambition:

A) Reduce the cost of accessing justice by:

• introducing new legal business models, such as Legal Partnerships. This will help to integrate the dual model of legal representation in Ireland and will enable legal entities to become more efficient in dealing with their clients

• implementing a new system to adjudicate on the costs associated with legal proceedings. This new independent process will involve publishing determinations in respect of legal cost disputes. This action will help to create openness, consistency and clarity around the costs of accessing justice

• introducing a quicker and cheaper informal arrangement for the resolution of complaints surrounding the costs of legal representation. This informal mechanism may be accessed by aggrieved clients prior to going to full adjudication

• classifying unjustifiable overcharging of clients as ‘serious misconduct’. This would be adjudicated by the new independent oversight body for legal practitioners. A robust penalties and professional disciplinary scheme will be applied to those found to have grossly overcharged clients

• encouraging greater use of alternative dispute resolution. We will introduce a new framework to promote mediation as a viable, effective and efficient alternative to court proceedings thereby reducing legal costs, speeding up the resolution of disputes and relieving the stress involved in court proceedings.

B) Introduce a new statutory framework to assist vulnerable persons and
individuals with decision-making capacity difficulties to exercise their
legal capacity. The new framework will replace the outdated "Wards of
Court" system and establish a modern statutory framework to support
decision-making by adults with capacity difficulties. The aim is to
safeguard the person’s autonomy to the greatest extent possible by offering
a continuum of decision support options most appropriate to the person's
needs.

C) Create more open and transparent oversight of legal practitioners by:

• establishing a new independent regime to regulate solicitors and barristers. This will end reliance on self-regulation by the legal professional bodies and will open up governance and reporting mechanisms to public and parliamentary scrutiny

• introducing an independent complaints system to deal with professional misconduct by legal practitioners

• making the way legal costs are charged more open and transparent through the introduction of new rules for solicitors and barristers. This will require legal practitioners to inform their clients in much greater detail how their legal costs are calculated.

Lead implementing organisations: Department of Justice and Equality

 

Timeline: January 2017 to June 2018

 

Commitment 3:

Improve Access to Justice

OGP values

Public accountability

New or ongoing commitment

New

Lead implementation organisations

Department of Justice and Equality

Other actors involved - government

Department of Health, Decision Support Service

Verifiable and measurable milestones to fulfil the commitment

New or ongoing

Start date

End date

A1) Introduce new legal business models, such as Legal Partnerships

New

January 2017

June 2017

A2) Implement a new system to adjudicate on the costs associated with legal proceedings

New

January 2017

June 2017

A3) Introduce a quicker and cheaper informal arrangement for the resolution of legal representation cost complaints

New

January 2017

June 2017

A4) Classify unjustifiable overcharging of clients as ‘serious misconduct’

New

January 2017

June 2017

A5) Introduce a new framework to promote mediation as an alternative to court proceedings

New

January 2017

June 2017

B) Introduce a new framework to assist vulnerable persons and individuals with limited decision-making capacity

New

January 2017

June 2017

C1) Establish a new independent regime to regulate solicitors and barristers

New

January 2017

June 2017

C2) Introduce an independent complaints system to deal with professional misconduct by legal practitioners

New

January 2017

June 2017

C3) Make the way legal costs are charged more open and transparent through the introduction of new rules for solicitors and barristers

New

January 2017

June 2017