Barrister fees rise by 11pc despite cut
BARRISTERS were paid €15.2m last year by the Director of Public Prosecutions -- an increase of 11pc -- despite the Government imposing a 8pc cut on lawyers' fees last year.
Figures provided by the Director of Public Prosecution's (DPP) office yesterday show that the barrister who successfully prosecuted Sharon Collins in the 'Lying Eyes' conspiracy-to-murder trial received the highest amount in fees.
Senior counsel Tom O'Connell received €320,462 to prosecute cases on behalf of the State last year.
A total of €15.2m was paid out to 169 barristers by the DPP for the prosecution of cases in criminal courts nationwide -- an 11pc increase on the €13.7m paid out in 2008.
Last year, the Government imposed an 8pc cut in lawyers' fees. In response to a planned further reduction, DPP James Hamilton wrote to the Finance Minister Brian Lenihan earlier this year to express "serious concern" over the impact the planned cut would have.
A Finance spokesman confirmed yesterday that the 8pc cut was applied from April 1, 2009 adding: "This is necessary in light of the pressures on the public finances. Everybody must play their part."
A spokeswoman for the DPP's office said that the rise in fees last year arose "from a greater throughput . . . and a number of particularly lengthy cases".
Director of the Bar Council, Jerry Carroll said yesterday said that the cuts in fees was "pretty severe" and "very stringent".
"We want to play our part and have been playing our part and the DPP has recognised this," he said. "We would have preferred if the case put forward by the DPP had gained resonance with the minister."
The figures show that 54 senior counsels received €4.7m last year -- an increase on the €4.1m paid in 2008, while €10.5m was paid to 115 junior counsels compared to €9.6m paid to 118 in 2008.
The barrister who received the most from the DPP last year was Limerick-based junior counsel, John O'Sullivan -- who was paid €386,050.
Others to feature in the top five include Dominic McGinn who received €334,284 and newspaper columnist and political pundit, Noel Whelan who received €234,766.
Arising from the reduction in fees, the DPP's office yesterday confirmed that a senior counsel will now receive a 'brief' or case fee of €7,919 for a murder case in the Central Criminal Court -- to cover preparatory work and the first day in court.
In rates for each subsequent day, senior counsel will receive a 'refresher fee' of €1,736.