Dáil Éireann - Volume 558 - 27 November, 2002

Written Answers. - Legal Aid Service.

  106. Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason for the cut of 3% in the 2003 allocation for the Legal Aid Board, having regard to the long waiting times in many legal aid centres for consultations with solicitors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23731/02]

  Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): I can inform the Deputy that the Legal Aid Board is currently reviewing its allocation for 2003 in order to utilise its resources in a way that will ensure the provision of services to the greatest number of persons possible within a reasonable period of time. I can also inform the Deputy that the allocation of increased funding and resources to the Legal Aid Board in recent years, up from €10.656 million in 1997 to €17.075 million in 2003, has led to a significant reduction in waiting times.

  I can further inform the Deputy that the board operates a procedure whereby priority is [546]accorded for certain categories of cases, for example, domestic violence, child care, child abduction and other cases where there are time limits. These cases are dealt with immediately. Such a system for priorities is necessary to ensure that, for example, persons who are subjected to domestic violence and cases involving the care of children are provided with speedy service. In 2001, the total number of priority appointments offered by law centres was approximately 1,500, or about 22% of the total number of appointments offered to new clients during the year.

  I am aware that the board continually monitors the operation of its law centre network and where waiting times, for whatever reasons, become excessive the position is examined by the board with a view to taking remedial action.