Judges claim €1m in expenses for first half of year months after Govt-sanctioned pay rise

Judges claim €1m in expenses for first half of year months after Govt-sanctioned pay rise

The country’s judiciary claimed more than €1m in expenses for the first six months of this year.

New figures released by the Courts Service show that the country’s judges received €1.02m in expenses between January and June - down marginally on the €1.088m received in expenses for the corresponding period in 2018.

It comes after the judiciary recently received a pay increase.

The judge to receive the highest amount in expenses is unassigned circuit court judge, Judge Francis Comerford, who received €44,476 in expenses between January and June this year - almost double the amount received by the second-highest claimant.

The Courts Service caution that some of the expense totals include arrears and Judge Comerford’s total is made up of €29,410 in subsistence, €13,786 in travel and €1,279 in incidentals that can be spent on judicial attire.

Judge Comerford clocks up the miles travelling from circuit to circuit around the country as he is one of a high number of judges who are unassigned to any particular circuit or district.

Judge Comerford practised as a barrister mainly on the Western Circuit before his elevation to the bench in November 2014.

The main cost of the judiciary, however, is the salary costs and separate Department of Finance figures show that the salary bill for the judiciary last year totalled €26m - which was down on the €26.79m paid out in 2017.

However, the salary bill for the judges will this year increase following Government-sanctioned pay increases in April.

As a result, the salary of the Chief Justice Frank Clarke has increased to €256,584 while the pay of Peter Kelly, the President of the High Court, has increased to €238,257.

The President of the High Court, Peter Kelly.
The President of the High Court, Peter Kelly.

The pay of a judge of the Supreme Court has increased to €223,597, while a High Court judge’s pay has increased to €210,771.

Circuit Court judges now receive €159,388 per annum with their colleagues in the district court receiving €138,860 per annum.

During the financial crash, judges were subject to three separate pay cuts under the Financial Emergency legislation — the pension levy, a 15% pay cut, and then another 10% pay cut.

In terms of expenses, district court judges claimed €577,434 for the first six months with their colleagues in the circuit court receiving €367,626 between January and June.

The circuit and district court judges receive the highest expense payments due to the scale of travel involved in their work covering the courts across the country.

As the Supreme Court sits mainly in Dublin, the expense bill is minimal at €5,620 - the highest claimant in the Supreme Court is Chief Justice Frank Clarke who received €1,502 for the first six months.

The expense bill for High Court judges totalled €72,153 for the first six months where the highest claimed was Mr Justice Robert Egar who received €9,546 - made up mainly of travel expenses of €8,134.

Last year, judges across the courts received €22,365 in incidental expenses which are incurred mainly on judicial attire.

The top claimant in the district court for the first six months was Judge Gerald Furlong who received €22,331 in expenses.

Judge Furlong was followed by Judge Seamus Hughes who received €21,989 and Judge Alan Mitchell who received €19,211.

Both Judge Furlong and Judge Mitchell are ‘moveable’ judges of the district court requiring them to cover district courts across the country while Judge Seamus Hughes is assigned to the Westmeath/Longford area.

The Courts Service state the level of costs recouped by each judge is a direct reflection of the work, numbers of sittings and the locations he or she is required to attend.

It said: “Payments are made in accordance with rates agreed by the Department of Justice and Equality and sanctioned by the Department of Finance.”

The Courts Service point out that for the district court, it sits throughout the year in scores of venues across the country and is the busiest, largest and most geographically dispersed court in the country.

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