Senator Barry Ward
Seanad Eireann, Dublin 2.
Fine Gael Senator and criminal barrister Barry Ward highlighted the stangnant fees and surprising day rate for those working in his day job.
Senator Ward said:
‘It is not a secret that I am a criminal barrister and I still work in that sphere and receive criminal legal aid payments but I am not issuing this request out of self-interest. There is a sustained campaign by criminal barristers to deal with this issue because it is a serious issue for those practising criminal law.
“There is a misconception out there that barristers all do very well and that they are all wealthy. It is a popular thing to say and certain media outlets love to refer to the Four Goldmines but that does not apply to criminal barristers.
“Crime does not pay in that sphere and we do not work in the Four Goldmines; we work in the Criminal Courts of Justice on Parkgate Street., and in district and circuit courts throughout Ireland.
“This affects every county and community because the reality is that the amounts available to be paid under the criminal legal aid scheme were slashed at the time of the financial crisis in this country by between 30% and 50%, depending on the nature of the payment. It was a significant reduction in the pay available to people practising in the area of crime.
“We should bear in mind that they were already the worst-paid lawyers in the system, including solicitors, and then their pay was cut by that amount. Everybody took that pain at the time that it was necessary during the financial crisis and they dealt with it.
Civil servants, healthcare workers and people providing professional services also took that cut; it was across the board. Yet here we are ten, 11 and 12 years later and the only people for whom pay has not been reinstated is those practising in criminal law, including solicitors and barristers. Their fees remain at the level they were cut to after the financial emergency.
Senator Ward added:
“To put this matter in context, if a barrister appears in a District Court for a case then he or she is paid a rate of €25.20 for the privilege plus VAT for however long he or she works that day. It is also a reality that he or she will also have to wait for the solicitor to receive his or her payment before the split fee is passed to the barrister.”
Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Ossian Smyth replied:
‘Based on data put forward by the Bar Council of Ireland to date, there does not appear to be any compelling evidence that the reduction in fees since 2009 has led to significant recruitment or retention issues or to a shortage of counsel prepared to do criminal work to the extent that the operation of the criminal justice system is significantly hampered.’