Kerry council seeks meeting with judge over poor box policy

Local authority urges Judge James O’Connor to direct more money to local charities

The courts in Kerry, District Number 17, each year account for the highest contributions to the court poor box of any court in the State.

The courts in Kerry, District Number 17, each year account for the highest contributions to the court poor box of any court in the State.

 

Kerry County Council is seeking to persuade a judge to allocate more of the money that has been raised by the court poor box to local charities rather than overseas ones.

Judge James O’Connor is being asked to meet the local authority chairman and the council’s chief executive to discuss the matter.

The courts in Kerry, District Number 17, each year account for the highest contributions to the court poor box of any court in the State.

Figures for 2016 released by the Courts Service last month, showed that almost one-third of the €1.53 million total collected and distributed came from the court office in Tralee.

The vast majority of the almost €400,000 collected in Tralee was distributed among large overseas charities by Judge O’Connor.

Top recipients were Christian Blind Mission (€53,000) and Sightsavers International (€53,000). Another overseas charity fighting blindness, World Vision Ireland, recieved €10,500.

Council motion

The move to appeal to the judge is on foot of a motion by the mayor of Killarney Fianna Fáil Councillor Niall Kelleher, which was passed at the September monthly meeting of the council.

Cllr Kelleher called on the council to approach the Courts Service so that the poor box monies from the county’s courts be allocated locally to community organisations, and to charities based in Kerry.

Cllr Kelleher said the court poor box gave people a chance in lieu of conviction. However, “90 per cent goes to third world charities overseas”, he said.

“We in Kerry have a fantastic fund in the community support fund,” Cllr Kelleher said, adding he would like to see this getting a greater share from the court poor box.

Cllr Michael Cahill (FF) seconded the motion and suggested officials meet with Judge O’Connor “a very solid man”.

“It would be great if we could get a bit more,” Mr Cahill said.

Addressing council chairman John Sheahan (FG), Mr Cahill added: “You know him well: He’s a fellow Glenbeigh man.”

A council spokesman on Wednesday confirmed the meeting between the council heads and the judge was being sought.

The Courts Service said the poor box is typically used for minor public order offences and “is sometimes used for road traffic offences, first time, minor drug offences and offences against property or animals”.

Some 60 per cent of all offences before all District Courts involve road traffic offences, and since June 2011 it is prohibited under law for judges to use the poor box for convictions that would otherwise attract penalty points.

Despite this, some judges have continued with the practice.