DPP fears drain of solicitors over low starting salaries
The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has warned that low salaries being paid to its solicitors may impact on its ability to bring prosecutions.
Similar issues have also been highlighted by the Office of the Chief State Solicitor, where 22 lawyers have resigned since the beginning of last year.
Deputy DPP Barry Donoghue said his office was struggling to compete with the private sector due to salary limits for newly-qualified lawyers.
He said the DPP was allowed to pay a starting salary of €30,000 to new solicitors, but they could earn twice that starting out with private law firms.
"After a period of retrenchment, attractive salaries are again on offer to newly-qualified lawyers in the private sector," Mr Donoghue told the Dail Public Accounts Committee.
He warned TDs that there could be consequences if his office was unable to attract and retain solicitors with the expertise required to run the prosecution service.
"It will create real problems in both maintaining standards and may also adversely impact on our ability to deal with all the prosecution work requiring attention," he said.
The issue comes against the backdrop of an increased workload for the DPP's office, with a record 14,000 new prosecution files being received last year.
The Chief State Solicitor, Eileen Creedon, told TDs her office had similar concerns and had entered negotiations with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in a bid to increase the salaries it can offer to new entrants.
"With the economy picking up, there are more attractive financial opportunities in the private sector," she said.
"In 2014, eight solicitors resigned, with a further 14 resigning in 2015."
She said there were now 13 vacancies at her office, meaning 11pc of positions were unfilled.
Ms Creedon's office does a wide range of legal work for the State, ranging from conveyancing and property work to advising and dealing with challenges to the Constitution.
Labour TD Derek Nolan asked her if there was not still "a vast pool" of graduates looking for jobs who could be offered positions.
"During the downturn it was easier to get them into our office because there weren't other opportunities," she replied.
She said the indications she was getting was that solicitors leaving her office were being offered between €55,000 and €65,000 starting salaries elsewhere.