A judge in Tralee last year ordered payments to the poor box which were 133 times more than the judge in Ennis, it has emerged. In total, the fine payments ordered by the district court judge in Tralee amounted to €500,000, or 25% of all poor box payments in 2018. This compared to just €3,750 in fines ordered by the judge in Ennis.
The matter was raised and discussed at a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) with the Courts Service. Peter Burke, Fine Gael TD and PAC member, pressed officials about how one district can account for so many payments.
“Would it surprise the Courts Service to learn that District 17 accounted for 25% of all poor box allocations directed in 2018?” Mr Burke asked.
When it was clarified that Mr Burke was talking about the court in Tralee, Peter Mullan of the Courts Service said: “Historically, the District Court judge there used the poor box in the manner he did. That is a matter of judicial order which we must respect, and that is what we do.
Mr Burke said he needed to judge how the Courts Service is managed and how it escalates concerns.
“I accept that use of the poor box is at judges’ discretion, but the court in Ennis accounted for €3,750 while the court in Tralee accounted for almost €500,000,” he said.
“A court in a small rural area is allocating more than the court in Tallaght which is in the Dublin metropolitan region. That would look highly unusual to a person with an audit background. It is a matter I would have expected to be escalated to the highest level of the organisation.”
Almost €1.74m was paid out from the court poor box to various charities in 2018.
Almost 20 years ago, the Law Reform Commission recommended the scrapping of the poor box system and its replacement with a more transparent auditing system with monies to go to victims of crime. Controversy has persisted over the diverse application of the poor box and where the money should go.