Oireachtas committee backs fee restoration for barristers

Oireachtas committee backs fee restoration for barristers

James Lawless

Barristers’ fees should be restored “as a matter of urgency” and direct payments should be introduced for those practising in the District Court, the Oireachtas justice committee has recommended.

The committee yesterday published its pre-legislative scrutiny report on the Criminal Justice (Legal Aid) Bill 2023, which proposes a number of administrative changes to the criminal legal aid scheme as well as the provision of legal aid for victims of rape and sexual assault.

Members of the committee previously heard evidence that it can now take up to 10 years for a practising criminal barrister to be able to make an independent living from their work, with many taking up lecturing and writing to sustain themselves.

The committee also heard evidence from Darren Lalor BL about the ad-hoc ‘split fee’ system under which barristers are paid via instructing solicitors for their work in the District Court, as well as the low rates of pay.

In its report, the committee recommends that consideration is given to introducing a system of direct payment of fees to barristers representing criminal legal aid cases at District Court level, which should be put on a statutory basis.

Commenting on the report, committee cathaoirleach James Lawless said: “The committee acknowledges that having a robust and effective criminal legal aid system is important for several reasons, among them ensuring that the public maintains its trust in the functioning of the courts system; that there is equal access to justice for all citizens; and to uphold the rule of law in Ireland.”

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