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Visitors or callers causing difficulties

Should a person attend the law centre and behave in a difficult manner, efforts should be made in the first instance to calm the person, for example, by asking them to compose themselves.

However, it is in order to ask a visitor who refuses to calm down to leave the premises. Any visitor who is clearly under the influence of drink or drugs or who threatens or initiates violence against a member of staff in the law centre should be asked to leave the premises immediately and building security (where available) or the Garda Síochána should be contacted in the event the caller refuses to leave. The Managing Solicitor should be informed of any occasion where this occurs and in the case of a client or applicant, the guidelines below should be followed.                         

The following are various examples of categories of unreasonable behaviour that have been experienced by law centre staff and guidelines on the appropriate action to be taken:-

  • Threat of, or actual, physical assault - a nominated solicitor should seek termination of legal services immediately.
  • Threat of, or actual, self harm (whether active or passive) - a nominated solicitor should seek termination of legal services immediately.
  • Surveillance/stalking - a nominated solicitor should seek termination of legal services immediately.
  • Abuse, obscene language and/or gestures - depending on the gravity of abuse, language or gesture, a decision should be made at local level as to whether to give a warning or seek to transfer the client to another law centre/solicitor or to seek termination of legal services.
  • Inappropriate behaviour of a personal nature - depending on the gravity of the situation, a decision should be made at local level as to whether to seek to transfer the client to another law centre/solicitor or to seek termination of legal services.
  • Malicious or vexatious complaints made by clients - depending on the gravity of the situation, a decision should be made at local level as to whether to seek to transfer the client to another law centre/solicitor or to seek termination of legal services.
  • Clients who fail to attend - a letter should be issued to the client advising of the consequences of not cooperating with the provision of legal services.       
  • Clients who cause difficulties regarding instructions - depending on the gravity of the situation, a decision should be made at local level as to whether to seek to transfer to another law centre/solicitor or to seek termination of legal services.
  • Unauthorised taping of consultation - a warning letter should issue to the client with a request that the tapes be destroyed and confirmation of their destruction be given. Depending on the gravity of the situation and the response received, consideration should be given to applying to terminate legal services.
  • Constant uninvited emails – a warning letter should issue to the client reminding them of the provisions in the terms and conditions letter regarding contact with the law centre. Should a client engage in persistent uninvited emails an application may be made to the Director of Civil Legal Aid for the client’s email address to be blocked by the IT system. Where this occurs the client should be written to by post advising them that all future correspondence will be by letter post and/or telephone only.

These guidelines pre-suppose that the person engaging in unreasonable behaviour is a client. However on occasion a person attending the law centre and behaving in a difficult manner may not be a client and in particular they may be a person seeking or awaiting legal services from the centre. In this situation the general approach should be that the person is written to by the managing solicitor with a warning about their future behaviour and advising that an application will be made to the Board to refuse them legal services if there is a repetition of the behaviour. The managing solicitor may consider it appropriate that an undertaking is given to this effect. There may be circumstances where an application to refuse the person legal services should be made immediately (to Legal Services).