Frank Buttimer’s firm receives highest criminal legal aid fees

Cork practice tops list for fourth successive year with fees of €709,667 (including Vat)

The legal practice operated by solicitor Frank Buttimer received the highest amount in criminal legal aid payments last year, securing €709,667 (including Vat) in fees.

Figures released by the Department of Justice show the lawyer’s Cork practice was the highest paid for the fourth year running.

The €709,667 received last year followed the Cork firm receiving €757,678 in 2013; €714,865 in 2012 and €889,659 in 2011.

The Department’s figures released yesterday show that Mr Buttimer’s practice received €155,000 more than the practice of solicitor Cahir O’Higgins, who received the second highest amount at €554,525.

Five solicitors work at Mr Buttimer’s practice and all are on the criminal legal aid panel.

In total, solicitors and barristers received just under €49.89 million through the criminal legal aid scheme last year – a 2 per cent drop on the €50.86 million received in 2013.

Value for money

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said “the State does get value for money” from the legal aid scheme.

The figures show that 887 solicitors last year received €27.97 million with 510 junior counsel receiving €11 million and 93 senior counsel sharing €7.36 million in fees.

The best paid barrister in the country last year through criminal legal aid was Michael Bowman SC who only became a senior counsel last year. Mr Bowman received €352,391.

Only one other barrister received more than €300,000 – Giollaíosa Ó Lideadha SC, who received €313,624.

The three defence lawyers in the “Anglo trial”, the longest running trial of last year at 49 days at Dublin Circuit Court, all feature on the list, though none were through the criminal legal aid scheme in the case.

Notable appearance

Brendan Grehan SC received fees of €252,598, Michael O’Higgins SC received €221,340 and Patrick Gageby SC received €114,191.

Another notable appearance on the list is former triple Olympic gold medalist Michelle Smith de Bruin who last year saw her legal aid earnings tumble from €48,685 to €12,600.

The native of Rathcoole in Dublin became a barrister in 2005 and works in the Dublin and South-Eastern circuits.

Rates of pay for Mr Bowman and his senior counsel colleagues show that they receive a brief fee of €7,127 for defending murder accused in the Central Criminal Court and €1,562 for each subsequent day after the first day.

In relation to their work in the circuit court, senior counsel receive a brief fee of €1,716 with a subsequent daily fee or refresher fee after the first day of €858.

The largest proportion of barristers practice as junior counsel and they receive a brief fee of €4,752 for a murder trial at the Central Criminal Court along with a refresher or daily fee of €1,041, while junior counsel receive a brief fee of €1,144 in the circuit court along with a refresher or daily fee of €572.