Legal aid forms: civil service hold up

LAWYERS have warned that they could be forced to withdraw their services from the courts if a dispute that has stopped them getting paid continues for much longer.

Clerical workers who fill out forms for the legal aid scheme have been refusing to carry out the duty because of a dispute over cuts to their pay.

Some solicitors and barristers have not been paid for more than six weeks as a result of the industrial action, and have called for the government to step in to resolve the problem.

The Bar Council and the Law Society have already met with the Courts Service to air their concerns about the dispute.

The Courts Service now plans to meet the Civil Public and Services Union (CPSU) tomorrow for a discussion on what has been happening.

A spokesman for the Courts Service said: "We can confirm that we will be contacting the CPSU tomorrow to seek clarification in relation to this matter."

He said the service had met with the representative bodies of lawyers and solicitors and they had agreed not to take any action until after that meeting.

The lawyers affected by the dispute have been growing increasingly angry because they believe nothing has been done so far to sort out the matter.

Solicitors have said they could not rule out taking legal action against the state for the unpaid money or the "nuclear option" of refusing to take cases.

If the lawyers were to withdraw their services, it would bring the daily business of the courts to a halt, causing chaos for gardaí and the justice system in general.

A spokeswoman for the Bar Council said: "We have made representations in the strongest terms to the Courts Service to resolve this problem immediately.

"Barristers at the junior end of the scale are really depending on this income and this payment is for work that has already been carried out."