The Cost of Justice

High legal fees are locking people out of the courts system.

If someone needs legal services, it can mean paying thousands of euros, and the exact cost generally can’t be predicted in advance.

For example, if you want to hire a solicitor for a divorce they will refuse to tell you how much it will all cost because they don’t know. Lawyers charge an hourly rate. If they make a phone call, write a letter, peruse a case file, do research or witness a statement the lawyers will charge for this, all before anyone steps foot inside a courtroom.

The difficulty of the case depends on whether there are assets that need to be discovered and valued, children who need custody arrangements, or maintenance payments where one spouse earns significantly more than the other. It also depends whether the case is contested.

Given that hourly rates are invariably more than €100, this process can mean a bill in the thousands.

Most people don’t have that much money sitting around. It can mean being forced to drop the case, self-representation in court or getting into debt to pay your legal fees. The threat of legal action alone is often enough to bully people into settlements.

Chances are most people will need legal help at some point in their lives. Apart from general legal transactions like registering a will or buying a house, you can’t predict when you might be illegally evicted, unfairly dismissed, run over by a reckless driver or be unable to pay your debts.

Continue reading “The Cost of Justice”

Julian Assange is no hero

The infamous hacker is revered by many — but there is more than one reason to doubt his motives.

This post originally appeared on Medium.

Julian Assange of Wikileaks fame has been in the news recently because of successive information dumps of Hilary Clinton’s emails, hacked from the accounts of the Democratic National Committee head office, and her chief of staff, John Podesta.

Earlier this week, #freeJulian was trending on Twitter. He is currently residing in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in order to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is facing rape charges. He argues that if he is sent to Sweden, he could be extradited to the US next, where he wouldn’t face a fair trial. This is despite the fact that Sweden doesn’t allow extradition for political crimes.

Given how important Assange and Wikileaks have been in the upcoming election, it’s time to examine whether Assange is really as benign a source as he presents himself.

We tend to give whistleblowers the benefit of the doubt. After all, these are people who risk their reputations, their jobs and jail in order to ensure that citizens see important information, often held by organisations which are shrouded in secrecy.

Here in Ireland, we’ve seen a number of whistleblowers go up against the might of the police in order to inform us of irregularities in the investigation of certain cases, giving preferential treatment to individuals by not reporting driving infractions, and intimidation of people who have reported on police wrongdoing. These people are to be admired.

Edward Snowden recently asked that he be pardoned by the American Government, pointing out that the information he leaked about the systematic data collection by the NSA started an important debate in the country about how to balance the right to privacy against security.

But Julian Assange is a different case altogether.

Continue reading “Julian Assange is no hero”

How to rebuild the Labour Party

#LabourRebuild is trending on Twitter. But what does Labour need to do to regain its standing in Irish politics?

How do you solve a problem like the Labour party?

Despite historically sticking at around the 10% mark in polls, the last time they had that amount of support was May 2015 according to Red C Research. Instead, they seem to have stagnated at 4-7% since the general election took place in February.

If the problem was that it’s hard to be popular in Government when you have to make a lot of difficult decisions, you would assume that being in opposition would help Labour’s numbers rebound. But the problem runs far deeper.

At the party’s think-in last month, Brendan Howlin said the main challenge would be to rebuild Labour.

If there is any hope of making the Labour Party relevant again, they’re going to have to do three things.

Continue reading “How to rebuild the Labour Party”

How to help domestic violence victims

Fixing our legal aid system is the first step to ending the vicious cycle of violence.

Legal aid “significantly lowers the incidence of domestic violence.” That’s according to an extensive 2003 study in the US.

Economists Farmer & Tiefenthaler took an unprecedented look at how increasing social service provision affected the frequency of domestic violence during the 1990s. They found that increasing social service programs reduced the likelihood of abuse. However, no measure was more effective than the availability of legal aid, including shelters and emergency helplines.

Because legal services help women with practical matters (such as protective orders, custody, and child support) they appear to actually present women with real, long-term alternatives to their relationships.

Another 2012 study from Alvarez & Marsal found an even more significant result; since intimate partner violence is a pattern of repetitive behaviour, a successful legal intervention avoids 1.76 incidents over the twelve months following the intervention.

Despite the importance of legal help for domestic violence survivors, access still remains an issue. Approximately half of the clients Women’s Aid support are eligible for legal aid and, of those who apply, 75% receive legal aid. This leaves over 60% of women with no access to legally aided representation.

Continue reading “How to help domestic violence victims”

The search for a cure for migraine – one of the most disabling illnesses in the world

More than half a million people in Ireland suffer from migraine, and this can have a serious impact on their ability to reach their potential.

This article originally appeared on The Journal.

MIGRAINE HAS BEEN described as an invisible illness.

There are almost no external signs of discomfort, and migraine sufferers are well between attacks.

However, migraine is one of the most disabling illnesses in the world.

Dr Eddie O’Sullivan, director of the Migraine Clinic in Cork University Hospital, explains: “[Migraine] symptoms have the impact that the patient can’t function. Patients frequently have to lie down in a quiet, dark room and stay there until the attack has resolved.”

It has far-reaching implications in terms of performance, in terms of reaching your potential, which we see from how disabling the attacks are.

According to the Global Burden of Disease Study, published in 2015, migraine on its own was found to be the sixth highest cause of years lost due to disability  worldwide. Headache disorders collectively were third on the list.

Migraine affects an estimated 12-15% of people around the world and approximately 500,000 people in Ireland.

Continue reading “The search for a cure for migraine – one of the most disabling illnesses in the world”

There’s a real life School of Rock in Dublin city centre

any job – you need to be working on your instrument eight hours a day.”

This article originally appeared on The Journal.

“NOWADAYS, EVERY MUSICIAN is their own manager.”

James Byrne has some insight into how to make it in the music business. Byrne, who is a tutor at Dublin’s BIMM music college, learned how to get into the music industry the hard way. He spent years drumming for Villagers and SOAK and running his own label, Any Other City Records, and now teaches students about how to avoid the pitfalls he faced.

When it comes it to the students, I teach them the information and the stuff they need to know and relate it to my own experiences. I think they find it very helpful. It’s almost teaching them the mistakes you made.

All-focus James Byrne giving a presentation to prospective CIPD students of BIMM Source: Liz O’Malley

Being hands-on and practical is important for students attending BIMM, Ireland’s only music-focussed college, who learn all about the industry from tutors such as singer-songwriter Cathy Davey; Conor Adams, the guitarist and vocalist in The Cast of Cheers; Dave Geraghty, the guitarist for Bell X1; Kieran McGuinness and Ronan Yourell from Delorentos; Louise Macnamara, one of the Heathers duo; and Mick Tierney, singer and songwriter with Republic of Loose.

Continue reading “There’s a real life School of Rock in Dublin city centre”

Three strikes and you’re out: A look at the proposed changes to the legal aid system

Reducing access to criminal legal aid could give criminals grounds for appeal.

“€35,000 in legal aid but no compensation for Corcoran family” the Independent proclaimed in the aftermath of the Tipperary raid case last October.

The case involved seven Dublin men driving to Tipperary, breaking into the Corcoran family home, and brutally beating father Mark Corcoran in front of his children. The ring leader, Dean Byrne, had 120 previous convictions.

The case came to be the symbol of a new type of crime; gangs using motorways to rob country homes and farms. Many were also shocked by the cruelty of the robbers in this case. The fact that the men were out of prison to begin with, having over 315 previous convictions between them, only added to the outrage.

The Corcoran family lost everything. Under the weight of medical expenses and post-traumatic stress disorder, the family were forced to close their once successful business.

Meanwhile, the criminals responsible were afforded free legal aid, including two barristers and a solicitor.

Victim’s rights NGO ‘Support After Crime’ criticised this award of legal aid and called on the Government to put a cap on the amount of legal aid that can be given.

More recently, TDs expressed outrage that their colleague Paul Murphy was able to qualify for free legal aid on a €87,000 a year salary. Fine Gael TD Alan Farrell described it as a “crime against the taxpayer”.

Continue reading “Three strikes and you’re out: A look at the proposed changes to the legal aid system”