Written Answers. - Legal Aid Service.

Rory O'Hanlon

Question:

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.