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Decisions should be in plain English

The requirement to ground decisions in the law should not be read to say that our decisions should be couched in legalese. It is important that our decisions be transparent and understandable by the applicant. An applicant who understands why a decision has been made is less likely to challenge the decision.

For example, take the refusal on financial eligibility. Formerly decisions on this matter would have read:

“This application has been refused under section 29 of the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995 with reference to Regulation 13(3) of the Civil Legal Aid Regulations 1996 for the reason that your disposable income exceeds €18,000. Regulation 13(3) of the Civil Legal Aid Regulations 1996-2016 specifies that “an applicant whose disposable income exceeds €18,000 per annum shall not be eligible to obtain legal aid or advice”.

This is legalese and may be difficult for the applicant to understand. More recent decisions read as follows:

“Unfortunately the Board must refuse your application for legal services as your disposable income exceeds the maximum laid down by Regulations1. We calculated your disposable income as €_______________, but the law states that the Board cannot legally assist any person whose disposable income is in excess of €18,000.”

The letter goes on to explain how disposable income is calculated.

While the section of the Act or Regulations must be quoted, it is important not to blind the applicant with them. The meaning of the particular section of the Act or Regulations must be explained in plain English. The sample decisions in this Part will give decision makers guidelines on how such explanations can be offered.