2023’s highest earners from criminal legal aid scheme revealed

2023's highest earners from criminal legal aid scheme revealed

The barristers and solicitors who earned the most from the criminal legal aid scheme in 2023 have been named.

Wayne Kenny, principal of Dublin-based French Kenny Solicitors, was the highest-earning solicitor with earnings of €882,074.

Michael Bowman SC was again the top-earning senior counsel with earnings of €772,911, while Keith Spencer BL also retained his spot as highest-earning junior counsel with earnings of €765,954.

The figures are, however, not directly comparable to last year’s figures because of a change in how they are counted. The 2023 figures, for the first time, include amounts paid through ad-hoc schemes for the likes of custody issues, Garda station and prison visits.

The top-earning solicitors in 2023 were:

  1. Wayne Kenny — €882,074.27
  2. Aonghus McCarthy — €704,010.48
  3. Kenneth Cunningham — €669,347.52
  4. Michael Hennessy — €660,085.24
  5. John M. Quinn — €657,947.80
  6. Yvonne Bambury — €600,404.04
  7. Tracy Horan — €547,850.51
  8. Sandra Frayne — €494,490.95
  9. Niall O’Connor — €470,990.37
  10. Phelim O’Neill— €433,092.18

The top-earning senior barristers in 2023 were:

  1. Michael J. Bowman SC — €772,911.13
  2. Dominic Stuart McGinn SC — €486,183.30
  3. Seamus Clarke SC — €481,228.15
  4. Colman Cody SC — €445,020.71
  5. Padraig Dwyer SC — €439,284.98
  6. Michael O’Higgins SC — €401,167.68
  7. Colm Smyth SC — €390,949.36
  8. Giollaíosa Ó Lideadha SC — €383,959.78
  9. Mark Nicholas SC — €360,737.37
  10. Roderick F. O’Hanlon SC — €348,705.28

The top-earning junior barrister in 2023 were:

  1. Keith Spencer BL — €765,954.44
  2. Oisín Clarke BL — €324,827.03
  3. Karl Monohan BL — €298,461.96
  4. Katie O’Connell BL — €265,065.27
  5. Justin McQuade BL — €260,056.02
  6. Sarah-Jane O’Callaghan BL — €242,283.72
  7. Kelly Kieran BL — €229,565.36
  8. James O’Brien BL — €225,174.87
  9. Conor Roberts BL — €217,156.50
  10. Luigi Rea BL — €202,666.98

In total, around €45.7 million was paid to solicitors, around €23.7 million was paid to junior counsel and around €15.6 million was paid to senior counsel over the course of 2023.

This is an 18 per cent increase on the previous year, with a particularly significant 30 per cent increase in total payments to senior counsel and 27 per cent increase to junior counsel.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said: “One of the likely factors in the increase in expenditure on criminal legal aid is the increasing complexity of cases being heard in our courts, as well as the increasing volumes of cases coming into the Circuit Criminal Court, the Central Criminal Court and the Court of Appeal.”

They added: “The time it takes for a criminal case to reach its conclusion in the courts and the number of times a barrister/solicitor is required in court also influences overall legal aid costs in any given case.

“It is a priority for the Department of Justice to ensure that the courts are resourced to administer justice efficiently and effectively for citizens.”

The recent expansion of judicial numbers will be monitored to see “whether those increased resources result in increased efficiencies and throughput in the courts, shorter waiting times and consequent impacts on overall costs for criminal legal aid in the longer term”, the Department said.

Share icon
Share this article: