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'Absolute disgrace' Mother says her Legal Aid Certificate was terminated after disclosing mental health struggles

The woman has told the Sunday World she has been left in an “isolated” position after receiving a termination notice in March, ahead of an important court date

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A mother has said she has had her Legal Aid Certificate terminated for ‘unreasonable’ behaviour – after she disclosed that she was suffering from suicidal ideation.

The woman has told the Sunday World she has been left in an “isolated” position after receiving a termination notice in March, ahead of an important court date.

The Legal Aid Board provides legal aid in civil cases to people in Ireland who cannot afford to fund their own cases. Under Irish law, citizens have a right to legal aid when fighting a case.

However, the woman said she has been left high-and-dry after disclosing her mental health struggles – and could be now forced to represent herself in court against a highly-paid legal team.

She is pleading for help and asking for the decision to be over-turned on appeal.

Speaking to the Sunday World, the woman said she was told she would no longer receive support after disclosing to the Legal Aid Board that she had attended Pieta House.

“They started questioning my mental capacity.

“It was said that that I was upsetting the staff of the legal aid board by disclosing I was feeling suicidal and because I had attended Pieta House.”

The woman said she had previously been in dispute with the Legal Aid Board - but that had been resolved in her favour.

She said that her basic human rights guaranteed under Irish law are being denied to her.

“It is an absolute disgrace to force a client who is struggling with legal cases to deny her most basic right to access to justice, to force a person into an isolating and vulnerable position infringing on her rights of Article 6 and Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

“My cases are pressing in the courts and affect vulnerable people. Why should I be discriminated against because I felt vulnerable?”

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She added: “I have pending court cases with dates and had to adjourn two already because I have no legal representation. This is now an emerging pattern with the Legal Aid Board to issue a termination submission or a threat of unreasonable behaviour if I question anything.”

According to the Civil Aid Regulations, legal services may be terminated on the basis of the person’s behaviour including where it considers that the person is behaving unreasonably in the context of the court proceedings.

In correspondence with the woman, the Legal Aid Board claimed it was not possible to provide service to her under the threat that she might harm herself if their employees did not do as directed by her.

However, the woman told the Sunday World:

"Many clients are faced with adversarial decisions daily who face similar issues. Under the Constitution, Article 40 outlines 'a citizen has a fundamental right to equality before the law."

When contacted by the Sunday World, the Legal Aid Board said:

"The Legal Aid Board has no comment on the specific case that is the subject of your enquiry.

"As you will have noted from the Legal Aid Board's procedures, any client of the Board, in respect of whom it is proposed to terminate a legal aid certificate, is initially furnished with a letter setting out the full details of the reasons as to why an intention has been formed to terminate a legal aid certificate.

"In that letter such clients are informed that they do have a period of one month within which to show cause as to why the legal aid certificate should not be terminated.

"In the event that the legal aid certificate is then terminated, the client is advised, again in writing, of the reasons as to why the certificate is being terminated and is informed of the right to seek a review and/or appeal in relation to that decision."

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