Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 12 Oct 1999

Vol. 509 No. 1

Written Answers. - Legal Aid Service.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

75 Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the waiting time for appointments with solicitors at each legal aid centre; the steps, if any, being taken to reduce waiting times; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19723/99]

The waiting times for appointments with solicitors at each of the 30 law centres operated by the Legal Aid Board as at 31 August 1999 are set out in the table which I will have circulated in the Official Report. In three law centres the waiting time for an appointment was one month or less, in eight law centres it was between one and three months, in four law centres it was between three and six months, in ten law centres it was between six and 12 months, in three law centres it was between 12 and 18 months and in two law centres the waiting time was greater than 18 months.

In consultation with the Legal Aid Board I continually monitor the position with regard to waiting times at the law centres. I am aware that waiting times in some law centres are continuing to increase notwithstanding the allocation of significant additional resources. However, where waiting times, for whatever reasons, become excessive the position is examined by the board with a view to taking remedial action.

In this regard, the Legal Aid Board has operated a private practitioners scheme in the Dublin area on a pilot basis for some years. I understand that the board intends to extend the scheme on a nationwide basis in the coming months. The private practitioners scheme provides a complementary legal service to that which is already available from the law centres. The expansion nationwide of the private practitioners scheme should increase the throughput of legally aided cases and also enable the law centres to devote more resources towards non-District Court matters.
Also the board operates a policy of providing a priority service in a range of issues which include domestic violence, child care and child abduction. A substantial number of appointments are given each month on a priority basis. For example, 1,879 of the 8,722 appointments offered in law centres in 1998 were for priority matters. None of those accorded priority were put on waiting lists. In the Dublin area, 911 appointments were offered through the private practitioners scheme operated by the Legal Aid Board in 1998.
In order to combat the increase in waiting times I made additional resources available to the Legal Aid Board in 1998 and again in 1999. I increased the grant-in-aid by 15 per cent in 1998 to £9.615 million and I further increased the allocation to £11.953 million this year, an increase of 24 per cent on the 1998 allocation. In addition I allocated £1 million for legal services for asylum seekers, bringing the total current allocation to £12.953 million, an increase of 34 per cent over last year.
The board has sanction for 89 solicitor posts. Recently a recruitment competition was held which resulted in the filling of all existing solicitor vacancies in the board apart from the vacancy at its Dundalk Law Centre. I believe that these appointments are helping to alleviate the situation with regard to waiting times in the law centres.
In concluding, it should be noted that in the eight months to the end of August 1999, waiting lists in 17 law centres were reduced, significantly in some cases, while increases were experienced in ten law centres.
Waiting time (in months) for appointments with solicitors of the Legal Aid Board at 31 August 1999

Law Centre

31 August 1999

Athlone

10

Castlebar

0.5

Cavan

1.5

Popes Quay

12

South Mall

16

Blanchardstown

4

Clondalkin

2.5

Finglas

7.5

Gardiner Street

11

Mount Street

7.5

Ormond Quay

8

Tallaght

4.5

Dundalk

7

Ennis

4

Galway

14.5

Kilkenny

5

Letterkenny

2.5

Limerick

7.5

Longford

1

Monaghan

3

Navan

2.5

Nenagh

9

Newbridge

20

Portlaoise

3

Sligo

3

Tralee

14

Tullamore

2

Waterford

1

Wexford

7

Wicklow

20

Top