Wednesday, 22 April 2009
Dáil Eireann Debate
409. Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding his proposal to ensure that accused persons who can afford to defend themselves do not obtain legal aid by requiring those seeking legal aid to complete a statutory declaration prior to attending court. [15470/09]
Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Deputy Dermot Ahern): 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. Under the 1962 Act, the courts, through the judiciary, are responsible for the granting of legal aid. Applicants must establish to the satisfaction of the court that their means are insufficient to enable them to pay for legal representation. 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. I have no function in these matters which are determined by the judiciary.
The Act further provides that the court may require an applicant to complete a statement of means. It is an offence for an applicant to knowingly make a false statement or conceal a material fact for the purpose of obtaining legal aid. My Department is committed to ensuring that public funds are safeguarded and, in consultation with the Courts Service, is currently reviewing the operation of this aspect of criminal legal aid.
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