Irish judges paid a lot more than most European colleagues, says report

Ireland has fewer judges and more lawyers per inhabitant, Council of Europe study finds

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Signage / symbol of justice - at the Criminal Courts of Justice at Parkgate Street in Dublin. 
Photograph:Frank Miller /The Irish Times

Irish judges are paid a lot more than many of their counterparts across Europe, but Ireland has substantially fewer judges per inhabitant than many other European states, according to a Council of Europe report.

Irish judges starting their career in 2020 were paid an annual salary of €129,704, almost three times the median €46,149 salary of judges in 44 European countries.

At the outset of their career, judges’ salaries here were 3.2 times the average annual gross salary, compared with a European median of 2.3 times the average annual gross salary.

Irish judges at the end of their career in 2020 earned €208,854 when the European median was €90,287. The €208,854 figure is 5.2 times the average annual gross salary in Ireland, compared with a European median of 4.5 times the average annual gross salary.


Ireland spends less per inhabitant on courts and prosecution services but has twice the number of lawyers per 100,000 inhabitants than the European median, the report discloses.

Published today, the 2022 report of the European Commission on the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) evaluated the efficiency of judicial systems in 44 of the Council of Europe’s member states, as well as Israel, Morocco and Kazakhstan. It is based on analysis of data gathered in 2020.

Ireland had 3.27 professional judges per 100,000 inhabitants in 2020, compared with a European median of 17.60.

Conversely, Ireland had 282 lawyers per 100,000 inhabitants in 2020, more than twice the European median of 135.

In 2020, 39 per cent of judges here were women, compared with a European median of 62 per cent. In 2020, 40 per cent of court presidents here were women, compared with a European median of 38 per cent.

Ireland spent €31.10 per inhabitant on courts in 2020, compared with a European median figure of €43.53. In 2010, Ireland spent €22.80 per inhabitant on courts compared with a European median of €29.00 that year.

Ireland spent substantially less than the European mean on prosecution services in 2020. The Irish spend was €8.90 per inhabitant, compared with a European median figure of €13.86.

The overall ICT (Information and Communication Technology) index for Ireland (on a scale of 0 to 10, covering ICT usage in court and case management, decision support and communication with courts) was 4.32 in 2020, compared with a European median of 6.5.

The report notes that investment in ICT is relatively high here, accounting for 8.9 per cent of court budgets and had increased by a further 34.4 per cent in 2020.

Overall, the report observes that the Covid-19 pandemic reinforced the central place of users in the justice system and accelerated the digitalisation of justice. Online availability, it states, is becoming the dominant way of sharing information with users.

The report notes some difficulties in assessing the efficiency rate of the courts here in dealing with cases for reasons including absence of data resulting from many cases being settled or not proceeded with without the court being formally notified.

The report praises Ireland among several other countries for leading the way in relation to the training of judges and prosecutors concerning children’s rights and the sexual exploitation and abuse of children but notes Ireland is not among the 70 per cent of states with prosecutors specifically trained in dealing with adult victims of domestic and sexual violence.

While the prevalent age for criminal liability in most states is 14, five States, including Ireland, allow for a sentence of privation of liberty to be imposed on children aged under 14.

Overall, it discloses a steady but uneven increase across most states in the budget allocated to justice between 2010 and 2020. In 2020, the spend was an average €79 per inhabitant with 66 per cent to courts, 24.5 per cent to prosecution authorities and 9.5 per cent to legal aid.

The number of professional judges has slightly increased (the average being 22.2 judges per 100 000 inhabitants). While noting there have been more female than male judges and prosecutors for several years now, the report says under-representation of women in the highest functions is still evident despite some promising developments.

European lawyers remain predominantly male, but shifts in favour of women are visible in this area, it notes. The number of lawyers is still increasing in Europe, with an average 172 lawyers per 100,000 inhabitants in 2020, while the number of courts is decreasing with specialisation of courts remaining a strong trend.

In assessing the performance of judicial systems, the report notes that due to Covid-19 restrictions courts throughout Europe encountered problems in executing even routine operations but notes not all jurisdictions were impacted in the same manner as states and entities resorted to various innovative measures to mitigate the Covid-19 effects.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times