FG backs criminal legal aid means test


GOVERNMENT PLANS to introduce a means test for criminal legal aid yesterday won support from Fine Gael.

The party’s spokesman on justice, Charlie Flanagan, said he welcomed the move but claimed the initiative had come not from the Government but from the committee, known as An Bord Snip Nua and chaired by economist Colm McCarthy, which was asked to identify savings in public spending. “I have been calling for strict scrutiny of criminal legal aid applications for some time and I welcome An Bord Snip Nua’s recommendation that a means test be introduced,” said Mr Flanagan.

“In fact, according to the report, €8.4 million would be saved by introducing a limited means testing system for criminal legal aid.”

He said an end was needed to the practice whereby a criminal could easily disguise their means. “The days of being granted legal aid at the taxpayers’ expense and then leaving the court in a blacked-out SUV must be brought to an end.”

The Minister said this week his department had been working to amend legislation governing criminal legal aid since gaining Cabinet approval for new measures in January.

The free legal advice body FLAC has warned that the introduction of a means test could lead to inflexibility and unfairness.