Ulster Unionist Justice Spokesperson Tom Elliott has secured a significant change to the Legal Aid and Coroners’ Courts Bill, a piece of legislation which will dissolve the Northern Ireland Legal Services Commission and transform it to a new Executive Agency within the Department of Justice. Despite stiff competition from the Minister, Tom Elliott’s amendment will now see the new Director of Legal Aid appointed through an open public competition rather than the option of simply being anointed by the Department.
Tom Elliott said;
“The Legal Services Commission has not been doing a very effective job in recent years given the huge miscalculations in the Legal Aid requirement. In order to ensure the service is working as efficiently and effectively as possible we must ensure the best possible people are leading it, and the best way to achieve this is by recruiting people by merit in a fair and open process.”
“The Ulster Unionist Party has long advocated opening up more posts in the Northern Ireland Civil Service, especially those at senior levels, to public competition in order attract the best possible range of applicants. This new post, effectively the head of legal aid in Northern Ireland, is crucial if we are to further improve the administration and delivery of the service.
“I was disappointed that the Minister, supported by only the DUP, struggled with the suggestion of opening up the appointment to a public competition – an idea what many people would have considered to make perfect sense. Thankfully the Minister was defeated and my amendment was eventually secured. The best person for the job will now take up the role, rather than simply who the Department and the senior civil servants in it want to see doing it.”