Payments to Clare solicitors under criminal legal aid increased last year to almost €475,000; that is more than €2,000 for every sitting of the district and circuit court in Clare.
According to figures released by the Department of Justice to the Clare People payment to Clare solicitors for 2012 reached €474,996.91 – up €6,105 on the previous year.
Added legal aid costs such as provisions for counsel for barristers, doctors, psychiatrists, engineers, forensic scientists and language experts for defence cases in criminal hearings were not available for 2012 at time of press; but these added costs reached a further €235,723.60 in 2011.
The biggest earner through criminal legal aid last year continues to be solicitor Tara D Godfrey, who specialises in providing legal aid.
However the figures show that the Ennis based solicitor’s income from legal aid had also dropped year on year in the last three years.
In 2012 Ms Godfrey earned €137,880.30, compared to €144,434 in 2011, which was in turn a decrease of €19,265 on the previous year when her payment reached €163,699.
Darragh Hassett of Hassett, Considine Solicitors earned €87,502.65 last year in legal aid payments, down €8,590 on last year.
The third largest earner was former solicitor and current Limerick District Court Judge Eugene O’Kelly.
The former Kilrush based solicitor earned €45,184.56 through legal aid cases last year, prior to being appointed to the bench in March.
In 2011 his practice earned €71,602 from free legal aid cases, down significantly from €135,748 in 2010.
Judge Kelly’s clients are now served by his former legal partner of five years Patrick Moylan.
Mr Moylan, based in Market Square, Kilrush earned €42,293.98 in legal aid in 2012.
Ennis based solicitor John P Casey was also among the busier free legal aid providers and earned €44,547.02.
The majority of the 23 Clare based solicitors and firms listed by the Department of Justice earned less than €25,000 in free legal aid fees, with as many as 15 earning less than €10,000.
Should a proposal by Clare County Council members get the support of the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, Clare’s solicitors will be earning even less through the free criminal legal aid system.
A proposal has gone to the Minister from the local authority, outlying plans to allow free legal aid in criminal cases just once, with repeat offenders obliged to pay for their own legal costs.
The State is obliged to provide legal aid towards defensive representation in the courts for any person who can prove they do not have the ability to finance their own legal costs.

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Claire Gallagher is a multi-award winning journalist with more than 15 years experience in media. The Galwegan began her career in radio working in news and current affairs. Having spent a year on the dark side – political PR and Spin – she returned to journalism and has since then worked mainly in print – regional and national – while continuing to work with the broadcast media. She has been with the Clare People since its foundation in 2005. She was awarded “Young Irish Medical Journalist of the Year” in June 2008 while working with the paper. Twitter @galocon Facebook ClaireGallagherClarePeople

2 COMMENTS

  1. Surely we all agree that every person charged with an offence is entitled to legal counsel. But if, as the Clare Council suggest, funds withheld for that purpose in certain cases, then there will be no counsel available to all people.

    Legal counsel is a fundamental right for any accused. Denying that right for any reason is unacceptable in a free society. Are we only going to provide human rights to our citizens that we find affordable?
    What about the costs of going to court to get an arrest warrant? Can we not forego that and have summary arrests and trials–or do away with the trials completely. Imagine the savings.
    Perhaps the Clare Council will erect road signs at county entry points warning people that they are entering a zone of human rights deprivation.

    Could we have more specifics on who, exactly, in the “local authority” authored this proposal?

    • A lot of the people getting legal aid are driving brand new 4×4’s and getting extended bail and court dates for there family vacations!!! I would not be entitled to legal aid because I work for a living and I can’t afford a 4×4 or a holiday. So I don’t understand ur comment of human rights deprivation. To me it looks like the system favours criminals hence why they keep commiting crimes. It’s highly profitable for them to act in the way they do. The legal aid system in place is part of a large scale problem in modern day society.

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