People fighting repossessions will be ‘left to the wolves’ by Legal Aid Changes – Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD
Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has said that the Department of Justice are sabotaging the Abhaile scheme, by making whole sale changes to the Legal Aid Scheme, which strips representation from Insolvency applicants.
Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:
“I am appalled at the changes to the Legal Aid rules brought in yesterday, it creates a huge inequality in representation between the Banks and Vulture funds on one hand, and the person applying for insolvency on the other.
“I believe this will make it much easier for Banks and Vultures to repossess homes, and I fear that people will be left completely to the wolves.
“Government Ministers were earlier this week celebrating the Abhaile scheme, yet they have completely torpedoed it here, causing it potentially irreparable damage.
“Up until now, if you were applying for Personal Insolvency or appealing the refusal of the banks to grant one, then you could avail of the advice of a Solicitor and a Barrister.
“As of yesterday, the Government has removed the right to a Barrister for the debtor in Court, other than in exceptional circumstances. It has also halved the fees for Solicitors and Personal Insolvency Practitioners.
“Bear in mind that they will be taking on Banks who will have the very best of legal representation available, and dealing with complex legislation.
"This to all intents and purposes is an attempt to disarm the debtor, who may be fighting repossession.
“A very significant proportion of appeals against a refusal by the bank to engage in the insolvency process are successful.
"So if the Banks are facing strong legal opposition, they may agree to engage in the first instance.
“But if the Banks are now going to facing much more limited legal resources, with the Bank having potentially Senior and Junior Counsel and the debtor not having any Barrister, what is the incentive for the Banks to engage?
"The incentive will be to refuse and refuse, in the knowledge that they are likely to win an appeal.
“This is doing away with any sense of equality of arms.
“The Government appears to be driven to undermining the protections which the mortgage holders have, and in assisting the banks and vultures, it is shameful.”