Irish Bar Council wins legal aid fight

The Irish Bar Council has won a doubling of criminal legal aid after years of negotiations.

The new scales have been agreed with the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Department of Justice, which administers legal aid fees for defence teams, so they cover both prosecution and defence counsel.

Bar Council secretary Fergal Foley said negotiations had been going on since the early 1990s, since fees for criminal work had been “totally out of proportion” with comparable civil cases.

The Bar Council, he said, saw no difference between the work that counsel had to do in a difficult murder or rape case and that involved in a complex non-jury civil case.

Foley said: “I've no doubt that a lot of people think barristers are earning too much money but the high earnings apply only to a very limited number of barristers. The amount paid to those involved in criminal work has always been smaller than that paid to barristers in civil cases.”

Under the agreed rates, which have now been implemented, a senior counsel's case fee for the first day of a murder trial in the Central Criminal Court in Dublin has increased from £2,000 to £5,000. The refresher fee paid each subsequent day has been doubled to £1,500. Junior counsels' fees have also increased. And fees for juniors and seniors in the circuit criminal courts have also roughly doubled.