Northern Ireland Legal Services Commission
The Northern Ireland Legal Services Commission (“the Commission”) is a Non Departmental Public Body of the Department of Justice (DOJ) established under the Access to Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 2003. The Minister of Justice, David Ford, has indicated his intention to transfer the responsibilities of the Commission to an executive agency within the Department in Autumn 2014. The new organisation will be called the Legal Services Agency Northern Ireland. This transfer will not fundamentally change the overall provision of services, but will deliver a range of important governance improvements and efficiency savings.
The Commission’s role is to administer the provision of publicly funded legal services in keeping with the statutory legal aid schemes. We apply statutory tests to determine whether an individual should receive civil legal aid and if eligible, we pay solicitors and barristers for the legal services provided. While the judiciary is responsible for the granting of criminal legal aid, the Commission also pays for the corresponding legal services provided. In addition to administering the legal aid scheme, we also provide input to support the DOJ in its programme of work to reform legal aid.