Call for Evidence for Legal Practitioners (Judiciary, Solicitors (in private or public practice), Barristers)

Closes 18 Jun 2024

Opened 22 Apr 2024


The Department of Justice (DoJ) is conducting a review of civil legal aid in Northern Ireland.  The current annual spend for civil legal aid is approximately £50m.  At various points in their lives, people will need support with issues they face that have a legal dimension.  Access to efficient, effective, and responsive help in these circumstances is essential to enabling people to secure their rights in a democratic society.  Under the Access to Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 2003[1] the Department is required to inform itself about:

‘(a)    the need for, and the provision of, civil legal services and criminal defence services, and

(b)     the quality of the services provided.’

The Department is also committed to delivering on the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals[2] which have been developed to eradicate extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice and leave no one behind.  Goal 16 specifically relates to the need to support access to justice for all:

‘Goal 16 – Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.’

The Department of Justice previously conducted a number of high-level reviews aimed at assessing the legal aid structure (both criminal and civil).  The objective of the first Access to Justice Review Northern Ireland in September 2010 was to produce proposals that provided effective and affordable access to justice and legal aid systems that helped to ensure disputes were resolved at the earliest stage whilst sustaining the quality of justice.  The second major review commenced in June 2014 and was aimed at the establishment of a clear strategic approach to the development of publicly funded legal services and access to justice to safeguard the interests of justice at a time when there were many competing demands on public expenditure.  Many of the recommendations made because of these reviews are based on a different legal aid system, that of a Funding Code, and as such, many are no longer applicable.

The current review is intended to be a holistic review of our civil legal aid provision in Northern Ireland.  It will look at what we did in the past, what we can learn from comparative reviews, and what we have learned from those needing legal assistance and, importantly, those delivering civil legal aid provision in Northern Ireland.

The Civil Legal Services Remuneration Order (Northern Ireland) 2015 was designed to replicate, not change, the existing legal aid legislation, guidance, and practice, providing for the fees payable to the legal profession and other expenses associated with civil legal aid.  The Order makes provision for a formal review of the levels of the prescribed remuneration.  The first such review was due in 2018 and has not yet taken place.

The Department of Justice will be taking into consideration comparable reviews within the other UK regions and the Republic of Ireland.  This will include the ongoing Ministry of Justice Review of Civil Legal Aid ( and the Ministry of Justice Means Test Review (, and The Scottish Government’s Legal Aid Review.  Evidence obtained because of this Review may be used to support other work being progressed by the Department, such as the proposals to enhance access to justice for domestic abuse victims involved in Article 8 Children Order (Northern Ireland) 1995 proceedings.

Why your views matter

The role of legal practitioners in the delivery of legal services is a vital one.  Members of the legal profession operate in several diverse roles in Northern Ireland; they administer justice in the County and High Courts, they advise Government, they protect the rights of members of the public through the provision of advice and representation in court.  They work in Law Centres and in community and voluntary organisations ensuring those most in need can access justice.  Each role will interact differently, and each will bring a unique understanding and experience of what access to justice means to them.  It is important that, in carrying out any review of civil legal aid, we reach out to all those who work within the legal field in Northern Ireland.  We appreciate that over the past number of years there may have been changes within the legal aid landscape. It is only by engaging with all those involved in administering civil justice within Northern Ireland that we can hope to obtain a holistic overview of the issues around enhancing access to justice.

The Department of Justice is keen to listen to your experiences as a practitioner with experience in supporting members of civil society in their access to justice.  This may, for example, be as a member of the Judiciary, as a Barrister, or as a Solicitor (either in private practice or working for the public services).  The perspectives of those who work daily in our legal aid system will provide insight that can usefully inform this review.  

There are 5 Parts to this Call for Evidence, and we would ask that you complete each one:

  • Part 1 – About you and your place of work
  • Part 2 - Access to Justice – Civil Legal Aid provision in Northern Ireland
  • Part 3 – Review of Civil Legal Services
  • Part 4 - Prioritisation of Legal Aid Budget
  • Part 5 - Potential Opportunities for Reform

Some of the questions within this Call for Evidence may not be applicable to you in your role (for example, if you are a Barrister or a member of the Judiciary, the questions seeking information around the legal aid services offered within a solicitor's office may not be relevant).  If a question is not relevant, you may not answer that question.  If there are any issues which you feel should be considered, there is an option at the end of the Call for Evidence legal services questions which you may want to complete.

We hope that you will take the time to complete this call for evidence. 

If you would like to meet with us to discuss the contents of this call for evidence in person or to make other representations about civil legal aid in Northern Ireland, please let us know by email to

Give us your views


  • Anyone from any background


  • Courts
  • Family Justice
  • Civil Justice
  • Stakeholder Engagement