FEES paid to barristers by the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions have dropped for the third year in a row. The DPP is warning that prosecutions may fall by the wayside due to cutbacks.
Claire Loftus, who became the first woman to take the role of DPP last November, says that lawyers in the division are fully stretched due to increasingly large and complex cases.
Last year, 16,128 cases were received by the office -- just shy of 2008, the highest year on record, when 16,144 were received.
In her first full annual report, Ms Loftus said: "We have largely managed to maintain the same overall rate of throughput as achieved in 2010 and 2009. I am increasingly concerned, however, that it will not be possible to sustain this in the coming years.
"The expenditure of the office is essentially demand-led, as we do not have control over the level of crime or the number of prosecutions we must bring."
Fees paid to barristers by the DPP fell from €15.2m in 2009 to €13.5m last year. Overall office expenditure dropped from €44.7m to €36.7m in the same period.
The DPP's report reveals that the office received 12 requests last year for explanations as to why a decision was taken not to prosecute over a death.
"We have already learned by experience that the process of giving reasons in cases involving a fatality, which has been ongoing since 2008, has proved to be very resource-intensive and this will be a significant factor in any expansion of this work, which is required under this directive, in the future," Ms Loftus said.
The office of the DPP took in 9,276 files where a decision on whether to prosecute had to be taken, involving 12,728 suspects.
Some 37pc were not brought to court for prosecution.
The report said that of the 4,751 cases not prosecuted, 75pc were dropped because of insufficient evidence and among the others 194 were found to be not in the public interest; 21 were dropped on sympathetic grounds and 247 because the injured party withdrew the complaint.