The lawyers involved in the long-running trial of killer Graham Dwyer shared almost €900,000 in criminal legal aid payments last year.
Figures released by the Department of Justice show that the group of lawyers shared €879,293 (all figures incl Vat) for defending accused persons in the courts across the 12 months of 2015.
The largest individual payout in legal aid payments in the group was to the Dublin solicitor, Johnathan Dunphy, who received €218,808 last year.
Mr Dunphy’s representing Dwyer in the 43-day trial was a lucrative one as the €218,808 for the year he received was a 50% increase on the €146,213 Mr Dunphy received in criminal legal aid payments in 2014.
The total amount paid out through criminal legal aid last year increased by 2%, going up from €49.89m to €50.87m with well-known Cork solicitor, Frank Buttimer, again receiving the top amount at €548,448.
It is the fifth year in a row that Mr Buttimer’s practice has received the highest criminal legal aid payment but is more than €340,000 down on the €889,659 the practice received in 2011.
Payments are made to solicitors’ practices where there may be a number of solicitors in each practice participating in the criminal legal aid scheme.
The lead prosecutor in the Dwyer trial, Sean Guerin SC, received just over €100,000 from the DPP for putting Dwyer behind bars for life.
Mr Guerin also received €91,241 for defending accused persons in other cases last year. Ann Marie Lawlor BL, who was also on the Dwyer prosecution team, received €166,984 in legal aid payments last year.
The lead member of the Dwyer defence team, Remy Farrell SC, received €195,439 in legal aid payments last year with colleagues, Ronan Kennedy BL, receiving €135,471 and Kate McCormack BL receiving €71,310.
The top paid criminal barrister in the country in the scheme last year was Michael Bowman SC who received €457,772. Four others received fees between €300,000 and €400,000 — Bernard Condon SC €352,566, Giollaiosa O’Lideadha SC €328,646, Patrick Gageby SC €312,584, and Padraig Dwyer €301,588.
The figures show three solicitors’ practices received fees of between €400,000 and €500,000 with Michael J Staines receiving €454,610, Cahir O’Higgins €454,172, and Michael Hennessy €429,491.
The top-earning junior counsel in the country last year was Mark Nicholas BL who received €230,172. Former triple Olympic gold medalist, Michelle Smith de Bruin BL, saw her legal aid earnings increase to €15,263.
The total amount paid to 670 solicitors last year increased from €27.97m to €28.13m with the amount paid to 520 junior counsel going up from €11m to €11.2m and the total paid to 91 senior counsel increasing from €7.36m to €7.55m.
A spokesman for the Department of Justice said yesterday that the 2% increase in criminal legal aid “is due in part to the revision of the Garda Station Legal Advice Scheme to provide for the attendance of a solicitor at a formal interview between gardaí and a detainee at a Garda station”.
He said: “The nature of criminal legal aid is that it is demand led and is driven by the incidence of crime, detection rates, and prosecution of cases through the courts system, which has an impact on costs.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved