Ireland: Barristers stop work to protest District Court legal aid fees

Ireland: Barristers stop work to protest District Court legal aid fees

Criminal barristers in Dublin briefly stopped work yesterday morning in protest of the low fees paid to defence lawyers in the District Court.

The protest outside the Criminal Courts of Justice attracted support from lawyers practising in the District Court as well as more senior practitioners who turned up in solidarity.

Darren Lalor BL, one of the organisers, said: “Many good lawyers are leaving the practice of law – or are moving from criminal law to other areas of practice, because they cannot afford to continue to do criminal defence work. Barristers who appear for an accused in the District Court usually get paid €25.20 for their work for that accused on that day. This is not sustainable.”

Ireland’s funding of legal aid per capita stands at €18.40, compared with €38.14 in England and Wales and €73.53 in Northern Ireland.

Luigi Rea BL said: “Fees at all levels of the criminal legal aid system have been anchored at the 2002 rates. Very substantial cuts in rates of payment have not been reversed despite the economic recovery.”

Feargal Kavanagh SC, a senior barrister who practises in the higher courts, said: “There is a strong public interest in a properly funded criminal defence system. The criminal legal aid system is not just about representing those who cannot afford to pay – it is about ensuring a fair, reliable and effective system as required by law for identifying wrong doers and upholding the rights of victims.”

Michael O’Higgins SC added: “Lawyers working in the District Court are providing a very important public service: this includes holding the authorities to account and upholding human and civil rights. This is part of the work at all levels in the criminal justice system. It is essential that this work be funded properly at all levels.”

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