Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Questions (471)

Niall Collins

Question:

471. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the free legal aid budget by civil cases, by criminal cases, by the number of persons availing of it, including details of those who have availed of it more than once, twice, three and four times for the six years to 31 December 2015 in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46657/15]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

Under the Criminal Justice (Legal Aid) Act 1962, the courts, through the judiciary, are responsible for the granting of legal aid. An applicant for legal aid must establish to the satisfaction of the court that their means are insufficient to enable them to pay for legal aid themselves. The 1962 Act specifies that the court must also be satisfied that, by reason of the "gravity of the charge" or "exceptional circumstances", it is essential in the interests of justice that the applicant should have legal aid. Criminal prosecutions originate in the District Court and if so satisfied, the Judge will grant a criminal legal aid certificate.

Expenditure on criminal legal aid for each of the past six years is set out in Table 1 below along with data provided by the Courts Service regarding the number of legal aid certificates granted in the District Court. It should be noted the number of certificates does not equate to the number of persons granted criminal legal aid as more than one certificate may be granted to any one person. The number of legal aid certificates granted by the District Court in December 2015 is not yet available.

Table 1

Year

Number of Certificates Granted

Expenditure

2010

55,412

€56.544m

2011

54,092

€56.116m

2012

49,639

€50.534m

2013

49,843

€50.863m

2014

51,128

€49.890m

2015

49,836 (to end November)

€50.879m (to end December)

An applicant's previous convictions are not a criterion for the granting of criminal legal aid under the Act and consequently the information sought by the Deputy in respect of the number of persons who received criminal legal aid several times is not available. Records are not kept in such a manner to allow for information showing the number of times a person has been granted criminal legal aid to be extracted.

Civil legal aid is provided by the Legal Aid Board which is independent in the exercise of its functions, in accordance with Section 3 (3) of the Civil Legal Aid Act 1994.

The number of applicants for each of the past six years is set out in Table 2 below. I am informed by the Board that it is not possible to disaggregate information relating to the number of times a person has been granted a civil legal aid certificate.

Table 2

Year

Number of Applicants

Budget

2010

18,623

€32.192m

2011

19,636

€30.370m

2012

17,595

€32.922m

2013

17,559

€33.759m

2014

16,433

€32.574m

2015

16,793

€32.471m