Source: Shutterstock/Zbynek Burival
ALMOST €50 MILLION was spent on criminal legal aid in Ireland last year, Frances Fitzgerald has revealed.
The Justice Minister recently informed the Dáil that €49.9 million was spent in 2014, slightly less than the year before. Some €60.3 million was spent on legal aid in 2009.
Here’s a breakdown of criminal legal aid expenditure over the past six years:
Fitzgerald was responding to a parliamentary question asked by Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath.
In order to qualify for legal aid a person has to prove to the courts their means are insufficient to pay for legal representation.
Fitzgerald said that in an attempt to reduce the expenditure of the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, the rates of fees paid to legal practitioners were reduced by 8% in March 2009 and by a further 8% in April 2010.
There was also a reduction of 10% in July 2011 in the fees payable in the District Court. Fees payable in the Circuit and higher courts were decreased by 10% in October 2011, following the reduction in the fees payable by the Director of Public Prosecutions to prosecution practitioners.
A reduction of 50% was also applied to payments in respect of adjourned sentence hearings and travel and subsistence payments from 2011.
“Expenditure on the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme is monitored on an ongoing basis with a view to identifying any areas where further efficiencies may be achieved,” Fitzgerald stated.
She added that a new Criminal Legal Aid Bill is currently being drafted “to update and strengthen the system of granting legal aid”.
The new legislation will also transfer the responsibility for the administration of the scheme to the Legal Aid Board, an independent State body that deals with civil legal aid.