Dundalk councillor calls for urgent review of free legal aid system

Staff Reporter

Reporter:

Staff Reporter

Dundalk councillor calls for urgent review of free legal aid system

Dundalk councillor John McGahon has stated that the country's free legal aid system needs to be reformed urgently.

McGahon brought attention to the fact that the state has spent €428m on free legal aid since 2009.

Cllr. McGahon said: “I firmly believe that everybody deserves a fair trial, however I am worried that our system is open to exploitation. Criminals who have committed multiple crimes have been granted free legal aid on each occasion even though in some cases they have multiple assets.

“In Ireland if you have been charged with a criminal offence and are due to appear in court, you can apply to the judge for legal aid on the day.

“You will have to fill in a financial means form. If the judge says that you are eligible for free legal aid, you will be assigned a solicitor there and then.

“I believe there needs to be a thorough investigation of this process. We have seen high profile cases recently of people who are on high wages and others who have substantial assets, yet they seem to qualify for free legal aid.

“In the UK legal aid is means tested and the assets of the accused person are then realised as part of it. Some US States also have a system whereby people get three uses of free legal aid and after that they have to make a financial contribution.

“I believe measures like these should be explored as they would result in considerable savings to the exchequer.