Justice Minister, Naomi Long, has launched a public consultation on the publication of legal aid payments to lawyers who provide the services funded by legal aid.
The consultation presents proposals to publish details of legal aid expenditure across all areas of law and the levels of payment to lawyers on an annual basis.
Naomi Long said: “While the cost of legal aid is often the subject of public comment, it is widely accepted that legal aid is an essential part of our justice system. Indeed many vulnerable individuals rely on legal aid to access their basic legal rights. Lawyers undertaking work funded by legal aid provide frontline services for the public across a wide range of criminal and civil cases.”
“This consultation exercise proposes measures which will provide information on the areas of law in which public funds are spent and details of payments to lawyers who provide these essential services. The proposals seek to inform public debate on legal aid expenditure by making this information publicly available.”
“The consultation proposes a range of options to provide this information and I would encourage those who provide services and those who have an interest in how legal aid is utilised to engage in this consultation exercise.”
The public consultation follows a review by Legal Service Agency of the historic practice of publication of details of the 100 firms of solicitors and barristers who received the highest value of payments in a financial year. The review indicated that the proposed publication is consistent with the principles of transparency and accountability as to how significant sums of public money are spent.
The consultation paper proposes the re-establishment of the practice of publishing information on an annual basis and seeks views on a range of different options to publish information including whether the identity of the recipient of public money should be published.
The consultation also proposes the introduction of an annual statement being made available which indicates the sums of public money paid in each of the areas in which legal aid is available.
The proposed approach to publication is part of a wider strategy to make information publicly available through open data sets and publishing official statistics.
The public consultation will run for 12 weeks – Thursday 4 February 2021 to Thursday 29 April 2021.
Further information on this consultation, including the full consultation document and ways to respond, can be found at the consultation section of this website or alternatively on the Citizenspace section of the NIDirect website.
Notes to editors:
- If you require a copy of the consultation in an alternative format please contact the Legal Services Agency by email at: Consultations@lsani.gov.uk or in writing to: LSANI Consultations, Business Support Unit, 2nd Floor Waterfront Plaza, 8 Laganbank Road, Belfast, BT1 3BN.
- Media enquiries should be directed to the Department of Justice Press Office via email at: email@example.com
- The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours’ service for media enquiries between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted out of hours on 028 9037 8110.