Flac news autumn 2011

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    F R E E L E G A L A D V I C E C E N T R E S

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    Writer and campaigner Orla Tinsley joins rights activists to launch the "Your Rights Right

    Now" campaign's 25m-high banner, on Dublin's Liberty Hall on 22 September to mark

    the countdown to Ireland's first ever full hearing on its human rights record under the

    UN's Universal Periodic Review in Geneva on 6 October.

    On 16 September 2011,Minister for SocialProtection Joan Burton TDhosted a Pre-Budget 2012 Forum forvoluntary sector organisations in StAndrews Resource Centre, Dublin 2.Representing FLAC at the forum wereNoeline Blackwell, FLACs Directorand Saoirse Brady, Policy andCampaigns Officer. Our submissionfocused on how even in recessionarytimes the Government can respect,protect and promote human rights ina budgetary context.

    Minister Burton opened the forum bystressing the importance of anenhanced and reformed social welfaresystem for the 21st century to ensurethat assistance is targeted at thepeople who most need the support.She spoke of larger solutions andstated the budget was not just aboutcuts to social welfare but was awhole of government issue and thatdecisions had not yet been made. Sheunderlined the role of taxation andsaid that people with resources needto contribute their fair share throughtax contributions.

    More than 30 organisations madecontributions at the forum, includingThreshold, the Society of St Vincent dePaul, One Parent Family Network

  • flac News | Vol. 21, No. 3

    F L A C N E W S l J U L Y S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 122

    iinn tthhiiss eeddiittiioonn......State must honour human rights commitments 1, 8-9

    DPP would welcome deaf jurors 2

    Getting help in the recession 3

    FLAC responds to GRAG 4

    Demand rising for FLACinformation & advice 5

    Some stark facts on troubledmortgages 6

    The Gabriel case - some relief for hard-pressed hirers 7

    Competition recognises creativity ofyoung people on human rights 9

    FLAC Fellowships 2011 10

    Court to rule on access to social welfare decision 11

    Hammarberg on rights in austerity 11

    Report to examine social welfareappeals system 12

    Best interests of child must guidesocial welfare spending 12

    trESS seminar 12

    PILA Update:

    Unlocking lawyers pro bono capacity PILA & PILS co-host ECHR event 13

    Focus on FLAC:Lianne Murphy, PILA Project Officer 14

    Lucan FLAC celebrating 30 years 15

    Tributes paid to Mr Justice Lavan 16

    Dave Ellis Memorial Lecture 16

    FLAC NEWS is published quarterly byFree Legal Advice Centres Ltd.,13 Lower Dorset Street, Dublin 1.

    Editors: Aine Walsh & Yvonne Woods

    Layout and Printing: Printwell Co-operative, Dublin 1

    Contributors: Noeline Blackwell,Saoirse Brady, Emer Butler, LarryDonnelly, Michael Farrell, GillianKernan, Paul Joyce, Colin Lenihan,Karen McLoughlin, ine Walsh, KimWatts,Yvonne Woods.

    ISSN 07914148The views of individual contributorsdo not necessarily represent the viewsof FLAC.

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    The Director of PublicProsecutions, James Hamilton,has written to FLAC saying thathe would like to see deaf people serveon juries. But he said that so long as thelaw appeared to prevent this, he wasobliged to see that courts wereinformed of that and to see that trialswere conducted according to theexisting law.

    In a recent letter to FLAC Mr Hamiltonsaid:

    ...I would very much like to see asituation where deaf people couldparticipate in juries. I have in thepast publicly expressed the viewthat juries should be asrepresentative of the community asis possible and ideally this shouldinclude the participation of personswho despite having a physicaldisability would be able to carry outthe work of a juror with appropriateassistance.

    However, regardless of any personalopinion I might have, my duty to thecourt is to ensure that relevant caselaw is drawn to their attention...

    Mr Hamilton was explaining his positionafter he had written to prosecutinglawyers last December telling them toinform trial courts that deaf personswere still prohibited from serving onjuries.

    He referred to the judgment by the HighCourt last year in the case of Joan Clarke

    v Galway County Registrar, where FLACrepresented Ms Clarke. Judge DanOKeeffe held that Ms Clarke, a deafwoman, was wrongly excluded from ajury panel in Galway but went on to saythat in his view having a sign languageinterpreter in the jury room with a deafjuror would breach the principle of juryconfidentiality. Mr Hamilton said heregarded that view as binding on courtshearing criminal trials.

    FLAC does not agree that JudgeOKeeffes view is necessarily binding onother courts as that was not the issue onwhich the Clarke case was decided.AndHigh Court Judge Paul Carney took adifferent view when he agreed toempanel a deaf juror, also last December,although the defence then objected tothe man in question, who had to stepdown. However, the state of the law canbe debated in other fora.

    We welcome Mr Hamiltons frank andopen explanation of his position and weparticularly welcome his strong supportin principle for deaf persons sitting onjuries. And since the DPP agrees that itwould be a good idea to allow deafpersons to serve on juries, the real issuenow should be how to remove theobstacles to this happening.

    One way forward would be to speedilyremove the ban on deaf people servingon civil juries and at coroners inquests,where none of the special concernsapplying to criminal trials would arise.

    In this issue, we concentrate on thefirst ever examination of how Irelandis meeting its human rightsobligations under the the UnitedNations innovative UniversalPeriodic Review (UPR). You can readmore on pages 1, 8 & 9, but there arelinks to human rights in most articlesthis issue. This reflects the reality ofFLACs work respect for humanrights underpins all we do.

  • flac News | Vol. 21, No. 3

    F L A C N E W S l J U L Y S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 1 33

    GGeettttiinngg hheellpp iinn tthhee rreecceessssiioonn::ssuuppppoorrtt iiss oouutt tthheerree

    For people who are being putunder pressure by the currentrecession, it is key to note thatthere is help out there.There are a hostof state and voluntary bodies offeringpractical help and/or advice in a range ofareas, from relationship breakdown toover-indebtedness to housing problems.

    FLAC understands that people who arestressed and disoriented by their currentsituation are primarily concerned withfixing the immediate problem. Our aim inproviding legal guidance is to assist themwith that course of action. However wealso want to change the underlyingframework that allowed this crisis ofoverindebtedness to develop.That is whywe are campaigning, for example, tochange the personal insolvency laws, tomove debt matters out of the courts asfar as possible and to ensure that thereare clear, viable and respectful options forpeople who can no longer afford to keepup repayments.

    Below we list some of the resources wehave developed to help people tackleissues on which we campaign. Moreinformation is available from our websiteor by calling us at 1890 350 250.

    As a voluntary organisation, FLAC canprovide first-stop information on yourlegal queries through our telephoneinformation line and you can accessbasic legal advice from a solicitor orbarrister in one of our centres. Youcan find a list of our legal advicecentres nationwide on our website oryou can phone our LoCallinformation line at 1850 350 250 toget some basic guidance on yoursituation.


    For information on how to access thestate system of civil legal aid, whichoffers legal advice and representationon non-criminal law matters, you canread the FLACsheet on Legal Aid. It isa comprehensive guide to the serviceprovided by the state Legal Aid Board.


    If you have been refused a socialwelfare payment but feel that you stillhave a case to make, you can learnabout your options to appeal thedecision in FLAC's Guide to the SocialWelfare Appeals Process. FLAC hasalso prepared a Factsheet on theHabitual Residence Condition whichis used to determine whether foreignresidents or returning Irish nationalsare entitled to social welfarepayments.





    FLAC has also submitted its proposalsin the lead up to the next Budget2012.


    People who have acquired goodsusing the hire-purchase system andwho are struggling to make paymentsare advised to read FLAC's Factsheeton Terminating Hire-Purchase Agree-ments, which is based on our work inthe recent Gabriel case.


    As part of FLAC's ongoing work onaddressing the crisis of over-indebtedness in Ireland, FLAC hasprepared a Factsheet breaking downthe most recent Central Bank figureson mortgage arrears (the year to June2011). There is also our Factsheet onthe Code of Conduct on MortgageArrears which explains what banksmust do when people fall behind ontheir payments.