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Ireland / High Court / IEHC 454

Friends of the Irish Environment CLG v the Irish Legal Aid Board

Deciding Body type:
National Court/Tribunal
Deciding Body:
High Court
Type:
Decision
Decision date:
15/09/2020
Key facts of the case:
In 2018, Friends of the Irish Environment CLG (FIE) applied to the Legal Aid Board for legal aid to bring proceedings challenging the adoption by Ireland of the National Planning Framework and National Development Plan, arguing that it violated EU environmental law. The Legal Aid Board refused legal aid on the basis that FIE was an organisation rather than a person, and so did not qualify for free legal aid. In the present case, FIE therefore sought to challenge that refusal, claiming that the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995 entitled both legal and natural persons to seek legal aid. As a secondary argument, FIE relied on both Article 47 of the Charter (on the right to an effective remedy), and Article 9(4) of the Aarhus Convention (which requires that identified procedures relating to environmental law remedies not be prohibitively expensive). FIE argued that these provision imposed an obligation on the Legal Aid Board to interpret the Civil Legal Aid Act to include both legal and natural persons.

 

Key legal question raised by the Court:

 
Whether or not the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995 applies to legal as well as natural persons; and whether Article 47 of the Charter and Article 9(4) obliges the Civil Legal Aid Act to be interpreted in this way.
 
Outcome of the case:
Justice Niamh Hyland found that the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995 was not intended to afford civil legal aid or advice to legal persons. She further found that access to judicial review is not prohibitively expensive for the application despite its exclusion from the legal aid scheme, and thus did not interfer with access to remedy.