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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
FLAC was honoured to have BryanStevenson give this years Dave EllisMemorial Lecture. Bryan is one of theforemost public interest lawyers in theUnited States and is the founder andExecutive Director of the Equal JusticeInitiative. Described by ArchbishopDesmond Tutu as Americas young Nelson
Mandela, he has garnered internationalacclaim for his role in challenging bias againstpoor people and people of colour in the USjustice system.
In 1995 he founded and became executivedirector of the Equal Justice Initiative. Basedin the historically resonant town of Mont -
gomery, Alabama, EJI is a non-profitorganisation that provides legalrepresentation to such groups as juvenileoffenders, poor people denied effectiverepresentation or minority defendantswhose trials are marked by racial bias.
things:Bryan Stevenson gives
8th Dave Ellis Memorial Lecture
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FLACs work on highlighting the lackof legal protections for people usingfinancial services and for borrowersin arrears has led to two appearancesbefore the Joint oireachtas Committee onFinance, Public Expenditure and reformthis quarter.
In November, FLAC Senior Policy AnalystPaul Joyce voiced concerns in relation tothe proposed introduction of a MortgageInsurance Scheme in Ireland. MortgageInsurance (as distinct from MortgageProtection Insurance) is taken out by thelender to protect against borrowerdefault. The Central Bank has proposedthat such a scheme could provide anexemption to the 80% Loan-to-Value limitit has recommended for residentialmortgages. If the lender could securemortgage insurance, this could cover someof the 20% deposit that would otherwisehave to be paid in full by the borrower.
Paul, who was speaking alongside creditindustry experts, voiced FLACs concernsthat the cost of mortgage insurance wouldinevitably be passed to the borrower,adding to the already considerable costs ofservicing a mortgage.
He pointed out that a similar scheme inCanada has helped boost constructionthere but has also inflated house prices byallowing people to buy homes who couldotherwise not afford them. He warnedthat the consequences in terms of houseprices, potential over-indebtedness andarrears must be borne in mind whendiscussing such a scheme.
In FLACs view a more holistic approach interms of housing policy was neededgenerally. In relation to the proposed loan-to-value and loan-to-income limits onmortgages, Paul advised a cautiousapproach to ensure that borrowers who
are in a strong financial situation can accesscredit whilst also ensuring that people donot borrow beyond their means.
In December Paul and FLAC DirectorGeneral Noeline Blackwell were invited tospeak to the same committee on the Con -sumer Protection (regulation of CreditServi cing Firms) Bill 2014, which aims toensure that consumers are protectedwhen loan books are sold by lenders toun reg ulated entities.
Paul highlighted problems with the currentconsumer protection codes in relation toborrowers which FLAC had set out in itsredressing the Imbalance report earlierthis year. Even if unregulated entities weresubject to the current consumer pro -tection codes, he explained, this would notoffer consumers a sufficient level of pro -tection.
What is required, therefore, is not onlylegally binding legislation on the status ofcredit acquisition companies, but also aregulatory regime and a Financial Servicesombudsman service that will vigilantlymonitor the companies in question anddeal with complaints in a decisive fashion,he explained.
Noeline cautioned that, under the prop -osed legislation, the original lender wouldbe allowed to jettison any res ponsibilityfor the debt once a new entity has boughtit or has been brought in to manage it. Shequestioned the logic of such a proposal,asking why the original owner of the debtcould not be kept in the frame when itcomes to redress for the con sumer.
Paul added that it seemed extraordinarythat an owner of an agreement could beallowed to discard its responsibilitiesunder that agreement where a creditservice has been engaged to service theloan. He suggested that both the original
flac News | Vol. 24, No. 4
in this edition...Proximity, narrative, hopefulness,uncomfortable things: Bryan Stevenson gives 8th Dave Ellis Memorial Lecture 1, 8-9
Legal protections for borrowers infocus at oireachtas Committee 2-3
Under-resourcing of state Civil Legal Aid scheme a barrier to justice 3
Lydias Law breaks the mould forTrans community: Victory after 17-year legal battle 4
Government publishes Genderrecognition Bill 5
CCLrP launch second Interim report 5
Fairer Budget, Fairer Society:Making the case for a Human rightsapproach to budgeting 6-7
our Voice, our rights launched tohighlight economic, social and culturalrights in Ireland 10-11
PILA NGo Seminar 12PILA Legal Education Session 12PILA Pro Bono roundtable 12
Social Justice, Inequality & Economy:Three perspectives 13report on austerity in Greece revealsmultiple human rights violations 13
Focus on FLAC :FLAC Centre @ Wexford CIC 14
Focus on FLAC :Julie Herlihy, FLAC Council 15
New FLAC fundraising initiative 16IWLA Woman Lawyer of the Year 16Thomas Addis Emmet Fellowship 16
FLAC NEWS is published quarterly byFree Legal Advice Centres Ltd., 13 Lower Dorset Street, Dublin 1.
Edited by Laura oByrne & Yvonne Woods
Contributors: Noeline Blackwell, Michael Farrell, Gillian Kernan, Geraldine Murphy, Laura oByrne, Liz oMalley, Yvonne oSullivan, rachel Power, Eamonn Tansey, Fionn Toland, Yvonne Woods.
Photos: FLAC, Derek Speirs
Layout & Printing: Printwell Design, D3
ISSN 07914148The views of individual contributors do notnecessarily represent the views of FLAC.
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Legal protections for borrowersin focus at Oireachtas Committee
Mortgage arrears figuresreleased for second quarter of
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Under-resourcing of state Civil LegalAid scheme a barrier to justice
flac News | Vol. 24, No. 4
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A ccording to its 2013 Annualreport, the Legal Aid Board hasseen a 70% increase inapplications since 2006. In 2013 alonethere were 17,500 applications for civillegal aid, 708 of which were related toasylum cases. Yet funding only increasedby around 35% in the same period, withno increase since 2008. Staffing levels alsofell from 386 employees at the end of2010 to 368 at the end of 2013.
Even as far back as 2004, the Legal AidBoard was found to be unable to copewith its workload due to lack of resources.In O Donoghue v Legal A id Board, thecourt held that the plaintiffs right toaccess to the courts had been infringed byhaving to wait 20 months for legal aid.
Many Legal Aid Board law centres haveyet to reach the suggested average waitingperiod of 2-4 months for the firstconsultation with a law centre. As ofSeptember 2014, the waiting times for afirst appointment were in excess of 4months in 19 out of 35 law centresnationally. Waiting times for a firstappointment can vary from 3 weeks inNenagh, Tipperary, to 57 weeks in CorkSouth.
In 2012 the Legal Aid Board introduced atriage system to reduce waiting times.This type of appointment is designed toallow people to address problems whilewaiting for legal aid by diverting them toother suitable services, such as anombudsman or mediation. There has beena large uptake in mediation for family lawdisputes, with the Family Mediation Servicemediating over 710 agreements in 2013and saving the state an estimated200,000. However, gains from mediationseem to have been offset in other areas, asthe waiting times in September last yearare similar to those this year, and wereactually slightly higher.
An overwhelming 96% of legal aidcertificates issued in 2013 were related tofamily law, including areas like separationand divorce, access, custody andguardianship cases as well as other generalfamily law matters. In FLAC, by contrast,only around a third of queries received inlegal advice centres and via our informationline in 2013 related to family issues.
Pressure on the Board is also up due tothe rise in cases involving children beingtaken into care, with applications for civillegal aid in this area growing by 12% in2013. of the 486 childcare cases in 2013,almost 27% involved parents who werenot legally represented. of those withlegal representation, almost 80% werefrom the Legal Aid Board.
In a recent report, Director of the ChildCare Law reporting Project Carol
Coulter suggested that while someparents do not know that they might beable to access legal aid, there may beparts of the country where the Legal AidBoard is very under-resourced and it isquite difficult to get representation.
In September 2013, the Department ofJustice decided to raise funding to theLegal Aid Board by increasing theminimum contribution rates for the publicto 30 for legal advice and 130 for legalrepresentation. As a result, around 1.8mof the Legal Aid Boards 33.59m fundingin 2013 came from upfront contributionsand the recovery of costs from legal aidclients who were awarded money orproperty as a result of their case. FLAChas accordingly encountered a number ofindividuals who say this contribution hasdeterred them from