Criers earn more expenses than other Courts Service workers, figures show

 

NEW FIGURES have shown that court criers, whose positions are being phased out under Government plans, are receiving the highest expenses among Courts Service employees.

The figures, provided by the Courts Service in response to a Freedom of Information request, show that court criers, or tipstaffs, who liaise between judges when they are sitting and the outside world, filled the top three places in expenses claimed in the service last year and featured seven times in the top 10.

The figures show that the top-earning crier in expenses received €19,324, with a second crier receiving €17,984. Other Courts Service employees to feature in the top 10 include a court messenger who received €15,533 and a higher executive officer who received €14,994 in expenses.

Separate figures for the judiciary released by the Courts Service earlier this year show that one District Court judge received €50,073 in expenses last year made up of travel and subsistence. The figure was the top amount in expenses received by a member of the judiciary in 2011.

The annual salary range for a crier or tipstaff is €22,620 to €31,512 while they can earn up to 23 hours a week in overtime.

There are currently 75 tipstaffs in the Courts Service and Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has confirmed that none of the positions has ever been advertised.

The expenses for tipstaffs arise from travel and subsistence costs incurred for attendance in courts away from their home location.

Their most public role is to usher judges into courtrooms with the cry of “All rise please”. The criers are also required to be at the service of the judge at all reasonable times. Their tasks include liaising with lawyers while cases are going on, receiving visitors to the judge’s chambers, filing judgments or obtaining law books and driving the judge’s car.

However, the role of tipstaff is being phased out under Government legislation. The recently introduced law on reducing judges’ pay also states that new judges will not be provided automatically with tipstaffs and instead be given alternative support posts, most likely to be additional judicial researchers.

In 2009, economist Colm McCarthy recommended in his public spending report the abolition of the tipstaff grade, stating that “in a modern justice system the justification for these grades is questionable”. He said the abolition of the grade would save the State €2.5 million a year “having regard, in particular, to the overtime and travel and subsistence associated with these grades”.

In a submission by the Department of Justice to the Department of Public Expenditure last year, the Department of Justice pointed out that over the next four years, 11 High Court judges, five Circuit Court judges and three Supreme Court are due to retire.

It said that “if the judges appointed to replace these retirees are not automatically provided with an usher or crier, the annual saving in salary would be approx €700,000”.