Barristers in FitzPatrick case paid record-breaking rate
Senior counsel paid €3,000 a day during 126-day trial, and received €40,000 ‘brief fee’
The daily fee paid to barristers in the trial of former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick were the highest ever paid to counsel in a criminal case.
Senior counsel for the prosecution and defence were paid €3,000 each a day by the State for the 126-day trial which was the longest in Irish legal history. This is more than three times more than the standard rate of €858 a day for senior counsel in Circuit Court criminal trials.
The senior barristers were also paid a €40,000 initial “brief fee” to take the case, vastly more than the normal brief fee of €1,716. The two senior counsel earned a total of over €400,000 each including VAT for the trial.
The prosecution’s two junior counsel were paid brief fees of €26,400 and €16,000 respectively.
Correspondence released to the Irish Mail on Sunday newspaper following a Freedom of Information request shows the Director of Public Prosecutions’ office wrote to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform requesting that the barristers on the State side be paid a higher than normal rate due to the complexity and importance of the trial.
Sanctioned the increase
The department’s then minister Paschal Donohoe sanctioned the increased payments on condition they came from the DPP’s existing budget, the newspaper reported.
Because of parity rules, Mr FitzPatrick’s barristers were paid corresponding amounts. Mr FitzPatrick was on legal-aid for the trial.
The prosecution had alleged that Mr FitzPatrick (68) of Whitshed Road, Greystones, Co Wicklow, had failed to disclose to the bank’s auditor Ernst and Young the details of director’s loans he received from Anglo between November 2002 and February 2008. He pleaded not guilty to 27 offences under the 1990 Companies Act.
These include 22 charges of making a misleading, false or deceptive statement to auditors and five charges of furnishing false information in the years 2002 to 2007.
Mr FitzPatrick was tried twice. The first trial collapsed after several weeks in 2015 while the second trial was stopped earlier this year by Judge John Aylmer before it could go to the jury. Judge Aylmer ordered that Mr FitzPatrick be found not guilty due to serious deficiencies in the investigation by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE).
It emerged during the trial that the ODCE’s lead investigator had shredded evidence during the first trial. It also emerged the ODCE had coached witnesses while taking their statements.
A source in the DPP’s office has confirmed the figures paid to the legal teams and told The Irish Times that they are “unprecedented” and “record-breaking”.
There is provision for barristers to be paid above the standard rates for complex or lengthy trials but it rarely happens. For example, barristers in the high-profile trial of Graham Dwyer for the murder of Elaine O’Hara were paid the standard rate.
“It can happen in exceptional circumstances but never before at that level,” the source said.