Top-earning court crier claimed €23,000 in expenses
THEY are an endangered species but court criers continue to claim some of the largest expenses in the Court Service.
For the second year running the criers, also known as tipstaff, featured heavily in the top 10 claimants for 2013.
Figures released under Freedom of Information show that the top earning crier received €23,004 in expenses, with a second crier receiving €17,933 while a third received €17,385.
There are currently around 75 tipstaffs in the Courts Service.
None of the positions has ever been advertised. The expenses for criers and tipstaffs arise from travel and subsistence expenses incurred for attendance in courts away from their home location and the top claiming criers would be attached to non-assigned judges who administer justice in a number of areas around the country.
The tipstaffs' most public role is to usher judges into courtrooms with the usual cry of 'all rise please' – the annual salary for court criers ranges from €22,620 to €32,292 while they can earn up to 23 hours a week in overtime.
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 judgements or obtaining law books and driving the judge's car.
The figures show that in total Court Service staff claimed €1.2m in expenses over the year – an increase on the €990,000 claimed in 2012.
Tipstaffs were first introduced to the Irish legal system in the 1920s.
However, their days are numbers with the Court Service not taking on any more tipstaffs following an overhaul in judicial support arrangements. Instead, the first group of judicial researchers was appointed in 2012 with new judges.
They can carry out many of the court duties that tip-staffs have been tasked with over the years.
The judicial researchers are law graduates.
A spokesman for the Courts Service said yesterday that the €1.2m expense bill last year "shows a reduction of almost 50pc on the costs five years ago – when over €2.3m was needed to cover the cost of staff travelling and working away from home".
In 2009, economist, Colm McCarthy recommended in his An Bord Snip Nua report the abolition of the tipstaff grade.
Mr McCarthy said that the abolition of the grade would save €2.5m a year "having regard, in particular, to the overtime and travel and subsistence associated with these grades".
The decision to not appoint tipstaffs to new judges followed a submission by the Department of Justice that pointed out that the annual saving in salary would be approximately €700,000 arising from judicial retirements over a four-year period.