Barristers stage protest at Trim Court against pay rates for some members in free legal aid scheme

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Paul Murphy

Barristers gathered outside Trim Courthouse to protest against pay rates for some of their members.

The protest was the latest move in a seven-year dispute centred on the level of fees paid to barristers practising in the district court under the criminal legal aid scheme.

They are calling for the restoration of cuts imposed during the recession. Under the terms of the free legal aid scheme those practising in the district court are paid €25.20 for a remand hearing, €50.40 for a plea in mitigation at a sentence hearing at a sentence hearing and €67.50 where a matter goes to a full trial. At the protest barristers said that students currently studying law have the odds stacked against them in their hopes of entering the profession.

Barrister James O’Brien who practises at the Trim District Court said that barristers travelling from outside the Meath area for one case would earn only €25.20 for a day’s work, the same rate as 2002. He said that barristers had had to suffer cuts of 40% in pay between 2008 and 2010. Representations had been made to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Department of Justice but these had “fallen on deaf ears”. The government departments had refused to engage with the Bar Council on the issue.

He said that further unspecified action would be taken in an attempt to resolve the matter.

Solicitors also practising at the Trim court took part in the protest in support of their colleagues. Their spokesperson Maurice Regan said that barristers and solicitors working in the legal aid scheme often represented some of the most vulnerable people in society both in criminal and family law matters and the work they carried out was not reflected in the fees they were paid.

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