Mr Justice Barry White stepped down as a judge in September 2014 after a long career as a lawyer – first as a leading criminal barrister and then, from 2002, as a judge in the Central Criminal Court. He became a well-known and respected judge, presiding over some of the most high-profile murder and rape cases to come before the courts.
Among them were the trials of Joe O'Reilly and Brian Kearney, found guilty of murdering their wives, Rachel and Siobhán; and Eamonn Lillis, who was found guilty of the manslaughter of his wife, Celine.
Mr White continued to make headlines in retirement. The Rape Crisis Centre took issue with his view, expressed in a post-retirement interview, that judges responsible for sentencing in rape and sex crimes did not need specialised training and education.
Law library return
In the same interview, on
Radio, he announced his intention to seek a return to the Law Library as a barrister – a rare move for an ex-judge and one that would test the long-standing
rule which in effect blocks retired members of the bench returning as barristers in the court where they once presided.
The great majority of the State's 2,500 barristers operate within the Bar Council's structures. A small number remain outside it, and Mr White could have gone that route. As his lawyers said in the High Court yesterday, however, the Minister for Justice has told him his name cannot be added to the criminal law aid panel – an important source of work for criminal law barristers – unless he is regulated by the Bar Council.
As a High Court judge appointed before 2012, Mr White’s salary in his final years on the bench was €191,306 (anyone appointed since 2012 earns less).
His take-home pay, like that of all pre-2012 High Court judges, would have fallen by about 38 per cent between 2008 and 2014 as a result of various reductions and levies. Some judges have complained that a change to pension laws significantly reduced the value of the private pension pots they had paid into as barristers.
For all judges, public pension and lump-sum benefits are calculated by reference to total reckonable service and salary on the last day of service. In the case of High Court judges, pension comprises 1/40th of salary for each of the first five years of service and 3/80ths of salary for each subsequent year of service – subject to a maximum of ½ times salary.
The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform says this accrual rate is almost twice as fast as for other public servants.
Pension terms have changed in recent years. Under the Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme and Other Provisions) Act 2012, incoming judges will have to serve 20 years instead of 15 before they can draw a full pension. They also incur additional liability to tax in respect of the judicial pension and any savings for private pension provision made while working as barristers or solicitors.