Lack of clarity on criminal legal aid as Budget 2024 unveiled

Lack of clarity on criminal legal aid as Budget 2024 unveiled

Pictured (left–right): Paschal Donohoe and Michael McGrath

An additional €172 million has been allocated to the justice sector in Budget 2024 — but it is not immediately clear whether criminal legal aid fees will be increased.

Neither finance minister Michael McGrath nor public expenditure, NDP delivery and reform minister Paschal Donohoe referred explicitly to the criminal legal aid scheme in their speeches to the Oireachtas this afternoon, despite reports that the budget would provide for a 10 per cent increase in criminal legal aid fees.

Mr Donohoe said the additional €172 million would “enable continued investment in existing services and a range of new policy measures to support safety and vitality across our communities”.

In particular, the funding will provide for the recruitment next year of 1,000 gardaí and up to 250 Garda civilian staff. A €25 million increase in the annual overtime budget will allow for further gardaí deployments.

The funding will also provide for “additional staffing in the Courts Service, Prison Service, the Data Protection Commission and Policing Authority, as well as an increase in the range of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence initiatives and the extension of youth diversion programmes throughout the State”, he said.

Last week, criminal barristers across the State took part in a one-day withdrawal of services to pile pressure on ministers over fee restoration.

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