Criminal legal aid payments down 10% to €50.5m


Solicitors and barristers last year absorbed the largest annual cut to date in criminal legal aid payments, with expenditure on the scheme down 10 per cent to €50.5 million.

New figures released by the Department of Justice yesterday show that Cork-based solicitor Frank Buttimer was the best paid lawyer through the scheme, receiving more than €700,000 (incl Vat) in criminal legal aid fees. The figures show that he received €714,864.

A total of 963 solicitors last year received fees of €29.3 million – a drop of 11 per cent on the €33 million paid to solicitors in 2011. The figures show that Luigi Rea BL was the highest earning barrister through the scheme in 2012, when he received €415,972. Barristers received €17.6 million – a drop of 8 per cent on the €19 million received in 2011.

The figures show that 517 junior counsel shared €11.1 million with 85 senior counsel receiving €6.5 million.

Three solicitors received more than €500,000 through the scheme: Frank Buttimer, Cahir O’Higgins and Michael E Hanahoe. Six received in excess of €400,000: Yvonne Bambury, John M Quinn, Michael Staines, Edmund Burke and John Feaheny and Ronald Lynam.

‘Annual expenditure’

Solicitors received amounts between €300,000 and €400,000, with 12 receiving sums between €200,000 and €300,000 and a further 50 getting between €100,000 and €200,000.

The figures show that Limerick-based barrister Brian McInerney BL received the second highest amount among counsel at €368,097. Two other counsel, Giollaiosa O’Lideadha SC and Seán Gillane SC, received in excess of €300,000.

A further eight counsel got more than of €200,000.

Former Olympic swimmer Michelle Smith de Bruin BL received €21,041 through the scheme. She became a barrister in 2005 and practices on the Dublin and southeast circuits.

The Department of Justice said last year’s “reduction in the annual expenditure is the largest ever recorded and represents a fall of approx €10 million, or 16 per cent, over the peak recorded in 2009”.