Written Answers. - Legal Aid Service.

Rory O'Hanlon


287 Dr. O'Hanlon asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will amend the regulations to allow persons free legal aid where they received a personal loan rather than a mortgage in order to settle their separation with their partner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5216/00]

Under the Civil Legal Aid Act, 1995 and regulations, applicants for legal services are required to satisfy a test of financial eligibility. The present eligibility limit is £7,350 per annum disposable income. Disposable income is the income that remains after certain statutory allowances have been granted.

A mortgage allowance up to a maximum of £3,802 and loan interest payment allowance up to a maximum of £602 can be granted. A mortgage allowance relates to mortgage payments made by the applicant on the house in which the applicant normally resides. This allowance cannot be granted in respect of a loan other than a mortgage. Loan interest allowance relates to the amount of interest, which is paid by the applicant on foot of a loan, other than a mortgage, or hire purchase agreement. The loan must be from a recognised lending institution.

If it is necessary to go to court, an applicant's capital resources are taken into account. The maximum disposable capital, which an applicant may have, is £200,000. The value of the applicant's net capital resources, e.g. house, land, money in the bank, car, are assessed and a capital contribution may be payable.

The question of increasing the income and capital limits is at present under review.