Northern Ireland’s long-running legal aid dispute resolved



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A long-running dispute over legal aid which had brought business in many of Northern Ireland’s criminal courts to a virtual standstill has been resolved.

Solicitors and barristers have been refusing to engage in hundreds of cases for months in protest at planned cuts to the legal aid budget.

Negotiations between the Bar Council, Law Society and Stormont’s Department of Justice have now produced a settlement.

Full details of the deal have not been outlined but proposed new rules around legal aid payments are set to be presented to Stormont’s Justice Committee and the Assembly in the near future.

The resolution was announced in a joint statement by the Law Society, Bar Council and the Department of Justice.

It said: “All parties have worked to achieve this outcome in the interests of ensuring the continued effective and efficient operation of the criminal justice system in this jurisdiction.

“These arrangements will ensure the immediate restoration of representation for defendants in the Crown Court in Northern Ireland.”

Barristers and solicitors are set to resume work on legal aid cases today.

Justice Minister David Ford said: “I would like to thank all those involved in the mediation process for their energy in reaching a resolution.

“The immediate return to representation for defendants will allow the justice system to continue in an effective and efficient manner.”