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Tipstaff top league of expenses claims in Courts Service

New figures show that court criers, or tipstaffs, are topping the expenses table in the Courts Service.

One even claimed close to the basic crier's wage in expenses last year, receiving €19,324 in expenses, with a second receiving €17,984.

Seven tipstaffs featured in the top 10 expenses earners.

The annual salary range for a crier or tipstaff is between €22,620 and €31,512 -- and they can earn up to 23 hours a week in overtime.

In figures provided by the Courts Service in response to a Freedom of Information request, it showed that various employees, including criers, in the Courts Service received a total of €1.07m in expenses last year. This is marginally down on the €1.16m the previous year.

There are currently 75 tipstaffs in the Courts Service and Justice Minister Alan Shatter said that none of the positions had ever been advertised.

The expenses for tipstaffs arise from travel and subsistence expenses for attending courts away from their home location.

Their most public role is to usher judges into courtrooms with the usual cry of: "All rise, please."

The criers are required to be at the service of the judge at all reasonable times and their tasks include receiving visitors to the judge's chambers, filing judgments or obtaining law books and driving the judge's car.

Researchers

But their days as part of the Irish court system are numbered.

Government legislation on reducing judges' pay also states that new judges will not be provided automatically with tip-staffs and instead be given alternative support posts, most likely to be additional judicial researchers.

In 2009, economist Colm McCarthy recommended in his An Bord Snip Nua report the abolition of the tipstaff grade, saying that "in a modern justice system, the justification for these grades is questionable".

Mr McCarthy said the abolition would save the State €2.5m a year "having regard, in particular, to the overtime and travel and subsistence associated with these grades".

The move to not appoint tip-staffs to new judges follows a submission by Justice to the Public Expenditure Department.

The Department of Justice pointed out that over the next four years, 11 High Court judges, five Circuit Court judges and three Supreme Court are due to retire on age grounds.

It stated: "If the judges appointed to replace these retirees are not automatically provided with an usher or crier, the annual saving in salary would be approx €700,000."

With the replacement of tipstaffs by judicial researchers, the likely annual savings to the State would be €190,000 per annum, the department said.

Irish Independent