Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Questions (173)

Kate O'Connell

Question:

173. Deputy Kate O'Connell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if she is aware of a reply received by a person from the European Commission on 30 November 2015; if she will confirm that Ireland has no national regime on legal aid for companies and companies cannot access legal aid here at all; and her views on whether Ireland may be in breach of its fundamental obligations under Article 47, if it forces companies to be represented by lawyers and does not offer any regime for legal aid for companies. [21227/16]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I can inform the Deputy that section 5(1) of the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995 states that the principle function of the Legal Aid Board is, inter alia, to provide legal aid and advice in civil cases to persons who satisfy the requirements of the Act. The Board has always interpreted the word ‘persons’ to mean natural persons only and not to include legal persons. Section 29(1) of the Act requires that a person satisfy certain financial eligibility criteria set out in Regulations. The financial eligibility criteria that are set out in the Civil Legal Aid Regulations 1996 – 2013 clearly contemplate a natural person’s income and resources being assessed and do not contemplate the assessment being in relation to a legal person.

I am aware of Case C-258/13 regarding Article 47 of the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights which was heard by the European Court of Justice. While there are no plans at present to introduce legal aid for the type of commercial enterprise referred to, the situation is kept under review in my Department.