Government legal aid changes are a godsend to Vultures - Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD
Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has said that the changes to Legal Aid in Insolvency Cases are a scandal, an attack on the most vulnerable, and a godsend to Vulture funds and Banks.
Speaking during the course of a Topical Issue debate on the recent changes, the Cork South Central TD has said that the Government needs to reverse this appalling policy.
Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:
“It is central to a fair trial that there be a fair balance in the opportunities afforded to each of the parties involved in litigation.
“The changes to the legal aid rules brought in last Friday have absolutely destroyed that balance for families, making insolvency applications and who may be facing repossession of their homes.
"They will make it much easier for banks and vulture funds to repossess homes.
"This is an attack on vulnerable people. Up until now, people applying for a personal insolvency arrangement, or appealing a bank's refusal to grant one after the veto was removed, could avail of the advice of a solicitor and a barrister.
"As of last Friday, the Government has removed the debtor's right to have a barrister in court other than in exceptional circumstances and has halved the fees paid to solicitors and personal insolvency practitioners, PIPs.
"These are people who, if they are not granted a personal insolvency arrangement, could be on the verge of losing their home.
"They are people who, by definition, cannot afford their own legal representation.
“On the other hand, they are taking on banks that have the very best of legal representation available and they are dealing with very complex legislation.
"The banks will spend €5,000 to €10,000 on each interlocking case. Even in the exceptional circumstances in which a barrister will be given, the fee of €1,200 represents a loss for a barrister.
"Therefore a person will not be able to get a barrister to take on his or her case.
“Just yesterday, the case of Ms Lisa Parkin was decided. The judge approved a personal insolvency arrangement and accepted that the bank had been making a different case on entering the case from that upon which it ended up relying.
"Had Ms Parkin not had a barrister capable of responding to the bank, which was changing the goalposts in the case, there is every likelihood that she would have lost the case.
"To that could be added countless more cases which could result in people being out on the street.
"These are very complex cases. The brief would run from 300 to 500 pages, four or five affidavits and substantial exhibits.
"There is a substantial body of jurisprudence and we cannot expect a solicitor to do this alone. It should not be only in exceptional cases but as of right. This needs to be reversed.
"65% of cases are being ruled in favour of the borrowers, who have been able to remain in their homes, this makes it much easier for the banks to refuse, and they will be confident of winning and defeating the borrower.
"This is an attempt to disarm the debtor, who may well be fighting repossession.
"The Government has been lauding the success of Abhaile in recent weeks, well they have entirely undermined it here, this is a disaster for the applicant."