A significant portion of the criminal legal aid bill in Limerick relates to proceedings before Limerick Circuit Court. This includes trials and appeals
NEW figures from the Department of Justice show the cost of criminal legal aid in Limerick has risen by more than 17% over the last four years.
The figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act to Live 95FM, show a total of €2,230,972 was paid out to solicitors and barristers during 2016 relating to defendants before the district court and the circuit court.
The total amount of money paid last year compares to €1,681,818 in 2015, €1,995,083 in 2014 and €1,894,460 in 2013.
“The grant of legal aid entitles the applicant to the services of a solicitor and in certain circumstances, up to two counsel, in the preparation and conduct of their defence or appeal,” said the Department of Justice in its reply to the request.
”The courts through the judiciary, are responsible for the granting of legal aid. This department pays the fees and expenses to solicitors and council under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme,” said FOI officer Aishling Brennan.
Dr Alan Cusack of the University of Limerick says the reason for the increase in the cost criminal legal aid is unclear.
“For criminal law it’s now as easy to pinpoint why the increase has occurred. Perhaps one major reason is there is greater awareness now amongst users of the criminal justice system that they are entitled to it and there is also a greater willingness to use the scheme,” he said.
Fianna Fail TD Niall Collins says there should be a limit on the number of times an individual can claim legal aid.
“On how many occasions should a person be entitled to avail of criminal free legal aid when they are continually finding themselves before the courts,” he said.