Dáil Éireann - Volume 632 - 01 March, 2007
Written Answers. - Legal Aid Service.
Mr. Durkan Mr. Durkan
Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he or his Department has specific responsibility for the provision of funding for schemes operated directly by his Department or through bodies, groups or agencies under his aegis; if he or his Department provide funding to the Courts Service, part or parts of which are dedicated directly or indirectly to the financial requirements of free legal aid; if those involved in the running or operation of criminal gangs known to have substantial assets have been awarded free legal aid; if an evaluation has been done into such circumstances in the past five years, having particular regard to is oft expressed concerns regarding the operation of the courts and the decisions taken therein; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8217/07]
Mr. McDowell Mr. McDowell
Mr. McDowell: As the Deputy will be aware, separate arrangements exist in respect of Criminal and Civil Legal Aid.
The Criminal Justice (Legal Aid) Act 1962 provides that free legal aid may be granted, in certain circumstances, for the defence of persons of insufficient means in criminal proceedings. The sum of €43.503m has been allocated for this purpose in 2007.
An accused person is entitled to be informed by the court in which he/she is appearing of his/her possible right to legal aid. The grant of legal aid entitles the applicant to the services of a solicitor and, in certain circumstances, up to two counsel, in the preparation and conduct of his/her defence or appeal.
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 his/her means are insufficient to enable him/her to pay for legal aid him/herself. In this regard, an applicant for free legal aid may be required by the court to complete a statement of means.
Furthermore, 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. However, where the charge is one of murder or where an appeal is one from the Court of Criminal Appeal to the Supreme Court, free legal aid is granted merely on the grounds of insufficient means.
My Department has no involvement in the granting of free criminal legal aid or assignment of lawyers. These matters are handled entirely by the courts.
 In so far as Civil Legal Aid is concerned, the position is that the Legal Aid Board provides legal advice and assistance, including Refugee Legal Services, mainly through the solicitors it employs on a full-time basis in its law centre network nationwide. The sum of €24.288m has been allocated to the Legal Aid Board for 2007 and the sum of €9.117m has been allocated to Refugee Legal Services.
Dáil Éireann 632 Written Answers. Legal Aid Service.