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'No place in a modern justice system': Poor box receipts up despite minister's promise to scrap it

Minister Charlie Flanagan said the system “is no longer a fit place in justice administration”.

Image: Shutterstock/Marian Weyo

THERE HAS BEEN an increase in the court’s poor box receipts, despite the Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan stating that the system “is no longer a fit place in justice administration”.

The latest Courts Service report shows that in 2017, poor box receipts amounted to €2,007,000. This is a rise from 2016, which showed receipts stood at €1,720,000.

The minister told TheJournal.ie yesterday that it is his intention to abolish the system, stating that he is working on appropriate legislation to scrap the scheme whereby offenders contribute to charity in lieu of conviction, or for a lesser conviction, at the discretion of individual judges.

Flanagan said he hopes to publish the legislation by the end of the year.

The poor box is mostly used by the District Courts, but the takings vary in different areas around the country.

Court Service figures showed that Kerry’s poor box paid out nearly €400,000 in 2016, which is a quarter of the overall total, while Mayo paid out just under €10,000.

Earlier this year, it was announced that payments to organisations from the poor box are to be published on the Courts Service website to ensure greater accountability and transparency.

There has been much debate about the poor box system over the years, with one of Flanagan’s predecessors, Alan Shatter, also committing to getting rid of the scheme in 2014.

In 2005, the Law Reform Commission recommended that the operation of the poor box be put on a statutory footing with a number of recommendations to make the system more accountable.

It was recommended that rather than leaving it to individual judges to decide what charities would benefit, all the money should be paid into one central fund and a committee should be set up to administer that fund and decide which charities should benefit.

In 2015, it was revealed that drivers around the country were avoiding penalty points by making donations to the poor box.

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