The Department of Justice has announced a further £10.9m to improve payment times for legal aid.
The additional allocation is the culmination of prolonged engagement between the Department of Justice and the Department of Finance.
The Department of Justice continues to have ongoing dialogue with the Criminal Bar Association of Northern Ireland (CBA) on a wide range of issues, including timely payments, and has advised the Bar that a further £10.9m has been secured for the current financial year.
Permanent Secretary, Richard Pengelly CB said: “I fully appreciate the challenges faced by the legal profession in Northern Ireland. It is no secret that the current budget provision is insufficient, and I have made this point to the profession on a number of occasions.
“Rather than representing a late effort to address the issue, this multi-million package is evidence of the seriousness with which my department views the issue. It also highlights the work that has been done and continues to be done to resolve it.
“This money will greatly assist in improving the projected payment times to the end of the current financial year. I will continue to engage with the relevant organisations in an effort to manage the issue going forward. Given this additional funding and the ongoing engagement, the action being taken by the Bar is premature at this time.
“I am sympathetic to the frustration of the profession and remain committed to highlighting the issue of timely payments at every opportunity, however this action risks adversely impacting those who need legal representation at a time when the Department of Justice cannot resolve the matter.”
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