THE newly appointed judge for Limerick city has warned he will not be granting applications for free legal aid unless they are made to the court in writing and include the PPSN number of applicants.
Judge Eugene O’Kelly, who sat in Limerick for the first time on Monday, said everyone must be “conscious of the state of the public coffers” in what he said are “difficult times”.
Although the law does not make it compulsory, Judge O’Kelly said it is best practice that all applications for legal aid should be made in writing.
However, he insisted that everyone who is entitled to receive criminal legal aid will be granted it.
The judge noted that the policy of his predecessors may have been different but said he would be implementing the new policy going forward.
His immediate predecessor, Judge Eamon O’Brien only sought written applications for legal aid in a small number of cases during his time on the bench in Limerick.
Although a county-by-county breakdown is not published by the Department of Justice and Defence, it is estimated that close to €2m is paid out in Limerrick annually through the legal aid scheme.
Meanwhile, Judge O’Kelly, who is the permanent replacement for Judge Tom O’Donnell says he will approach his time on the bench in Limerick with “humanity and humility”.
He says victims of crime and those who are brought before the court will be treated with the “greatest of regard”.
He added that he sees his role as a judge as a balancing act.
The said the law must be upheld but that the rights of individuals and alleged offenders who come before the court must also be safeguarded.
The former Kilrush-based solicitor, who was appointed to the bench by the Government two months ago, said he was delighted to been assigned to the Limerick district and he said it was an opportunity that he “couldn’t possibly” have refused.
Judge O’Kelly said Limerick is close to his heart as has fond memories of travelling to city every Christmas when he was when he was child.
“It was a magical place and I looked forward to the visit with great anticipation,” he said.
Solicitor Ted McCarthy congratulated Judge O’Kelly on his appointment as a judge and he welcomed him to Limerick saying he and his colleagues would give him the “fullest of cooperation” during his time in Limerick.
Sgt Donal Cronin , Henry Street, echoed Mr McCarthy’s comments while RTÉ’s Mid Western Correspondent, Cathy Halloran, said many of the proceedings before Judge O’Kelly would be “widely reported” in the national and local media in the months and years ahead.