Barristers eye higher prosecution fees from State

Move follows claim for higher fees by solicitors and counsel dealing with legal aid cases

Recent figures from the DPP, released under the Freedom of Information Act, show barristers in private practice were paid €14m by the State last year to prosecute cases, an increase of 4.6%. Photograph: The Irish Times

Recent figures from the DPP, released under the Freedom of Information Act, show barristers in private practice were paid €14m by the State last year to prosecute cases, an increase of 4.6%. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

Barristers prosecuting criminal cases on behalf of the State have demanded a fees increase from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), saying the State’s financial emergency is over.

The Council of the Bar in Ireland has held several meetings recently with senior DPP staff and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to make its case.

The move follows a claim for higher fees by solicitors and barristers dealing with free legal aid cases, who said that they had accepted near-30 per cent pay cuts “without protest”.

In its submission, the Bar said its members, who also practice privately, have taken deep cuts in their prosecuting fees since 2008 under crisis-era public sector pay rules, known as Fempi.

“A further 10 per cent cut to professional fees, over and above Fempi, was also uniquely applied to barristers in October 2011,” the council said, adding “the economy is no longer in a state of financial emergency”.

Submission

Ciara Murphy

Lobbying records show the council also met with the Secretary General of the Department of Public Enterprise, Robert Watt, between two and five times in the first three months of the year. DPER made no comment.

Recent figures from the DPP, released under the Freedom of Information Act, show barristers in private practice were paid €14 million by the State last year to prosecute cases, an increase of 4.6 per cent.

Úna Ní Raifeartaigh, the senior counsel who received the most State fees last year, was paid €357,002 to prosecute cases for the State, according to the DPP. Dominic McGinn, who prosecuted the State’s case in the Anglo Three trial, received more than €322,000 last year, the figures show.

The junior counsel best paid by the DPP was Vincent Heneghan, who was paid €212,026, followed by Paul Anthony McDermott, who received€203,934.

Four successive cuts

“We recognised the disastrous state of the public finances at the time and reluctantly, but public-spiritedly accepted the cuts without protest, but we did so on the basis that when the public finances improved those cuts would have to be restored. We don’t expect full restoration of all cuts overnight, but it has to commence,” he told the Irish Examiner this week.

The Bar of Ireland said barristers took cuts of 28.5 per cent to 69 per cent, while working with the Court Service, Department of Justice, and others to streamline criminal trials .

However, the Department of Justice said that it had “no plans at present” to increase Criminal Legal Aid Scheme fees.

In fact, it is looking for savings in the €47 million budget – one that has fallen from €60 million six years ago.