THE Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has warned he will not be able to process enough criminal cases next year if threatened staff cutbacks take place.
James Hamilton said his office was under orders to rein in costs while at the same time having to find money for pay increases.
“The entire civil service has been told there is going to be no extra money, yet we are going to have to pay an extra 3.5% in staff costs and we are going to have to meet that by cuts in staff,” Mr Hamilton said.
This was not a viable option for his office, he warned. “We are a very lean organisation, we have a very definite purpose, we don’t have any fat, we don’t have any discretion as to what we do,” he said.
“We have to prosecute crime and I think if we’re asked to take, for example, a cut in staff next year I think it will be impossible for us to continue to provide an effective service.”
Gardaí and other law enforcement agencies sent more than 15,500 files on serious criminal offences to Mr Hamilton’s office last year for direction on what charges, if any, should be pressed, and how a prosecution should be prepared for court.
Mr Hamilton said any reduction in staff would impact on the number of cases processed. “I don’t believe we have the scope to take cuts like that and continue to prosecute all the cases we have to prosecute.”
Fine Gael justice spokesman Charlie Flanagan accused the Government of undermining the criminal justice system by putting the DPP’s office under pressure.
“The most recent crime figures showed significant increases in property crime and street thuggery. If Mr Hamilton’s warning comes to pass, some of these very criminals will remain at large,” he said.
Mr Hamilton delivered his warning as he formally announced he was to end his strict secrecy policy by giving reasons, in some cases, where he decides not to press charges.
The policy will apply initially only in cases where someone has died and their family or legal representatives make a formal request for information, and it only applies to new cases from yesterday’s date.
The move follows several incidents when bereaved families went public to try to get explanations as to why no one was brought to court despite gardaí having identified a suspect.
Mr Hamilton said he was willing to consider extending the arrangement to rape and other serious offences after a year but one of his concerns was he was unable to set up a special unit to liaise with families because of the budget cutbacks.
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