THE Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is to take early retirement to protect his pension entitlements.
James Hamilton is one of the first of many senior legal figures expected to retire early owing to the new rules on pensions and retirement lump sums.
Mr Hamilton, who has served as DPP for 12 years, informed his staff yesterday by email that he would be stepping down in November.
By leaving now, tax experts say that Mr Hamilton could save more than €12,000 a year on his pension.
He does not have a private pension fund but was entitled to retire on a full state pension in 2009, although he could have served another two years in the post.
But by retiring this year, Mr Hamilton's pension and lump sum will be calculated on his former salary of almost €240,000.
If he chose to stay on beyond February next year, his pension and lump sum would be calculated on his new, reduced salary of €215,590.
Mr Hamilton would already have been hit by a reduction in the maximum tax-free pension lump sum -- which has gone down from €1.35m to €200,000.
He told the Irish Independent that the new tax treatment of pension funds in last December's Finance Act had acted as "a catalyst" for his decision to retire early. He said he could not deny that pension reform was "a factor" in the decision.
Mr Hamilton, who practised as a barrister before he joined the Office of the Attorney General and later the Office of the DPP, added: "It made me assess my situation and I came to the view that now was a good time to go.
"I have held the position for 12 years and there are other things that I am interested in."
His departure comes as the investigation into Anglo Irish Bank is at a critical stage.
Mr Hamilton is the president of the International Association of Prosecutors and will continue in that role for another two years.
He added: "I am probably unusual, I was entitled to go on a full pension from the age of 60, but if I stay beyond next February my lump sum and pension would be affected."
New rules mean that any public sector employee who retires before the end of February 2012 will have their pension and tax-free lump sum based on their 2009 salary -- before the government reduced public sector pay.
But any public sector employee who retires from March 2012 will have their pension and tax free lump sum based on their current, lower salary.