Judges order almost €1.3m to be paid into poor box

Almost €1.3 million was paid in fines into the court poor box in 2015.

Further sums were ordered to be paid by defendants directly to charities, according to the Courts Service.

The option of the poor box is at the discretion of the presiding judge and in most cases it is the judge who decides where the money goes.

The total monies collected in 2015 has dropped significantly on the previous year.

In 2014, a total of €2.18 million was collected in fines for mainly minor offences. As well as public order offences, the poor box is sometimes used for first time road traffic offences, as well as minor drug offences and offences against animals and property.

There have been a number of moves to scrap the poor box, which predates the State and whose origins are obscure. In 2005, the Law Reform Commission recommended a combined reform of the poor box and Probation Act; and in early 2014 then Justice Minister Alan Shatter proposed to replace it with a reparation fund for the victims of crime.

In 2014, the High Court ruled it should not be given as an option to avoid conviction in motoring offences involving penalty points.

St Vincent de Paul is one of the most popular nominees by judges; the Garda Benevolent Fund also figures frequently. A total of €40,600 was divided from the court poor box in Limerick among 50 local charities, mostly local, including the mental health association in Kilmallock (€1,500) and the Limerick Marine Search &Rescue (€300); The Redemptorist Poor Campaign received the highest single sum at €3,000.

From the Portlaoise Courts Office, Medecins Sans Frontieres received just under €20,000 of €50,200. The remainder was divided among 21 other charities.

The sums given vary too – for instance 16 charities benefited from the €8,300 in the Wexford court poor boxes. The highest sum there was €1,850 to the Oznam House Men’s Hostel, three charities received €1,000 each including the Wexford Women’s Refuge; the Cornmarket Project and Gorey Heartsafe — the remaining 12 received small sums.

In Donegal, €14,150 was divided among 28 organisations from poor box takings — including €400 to Console Head Office.

The donation accepted or directed by a judge for mitigation can vary from district to district. In Killarney for instance sums of €2,500 are expected by Judge James O’Connor in lieu of mitigation for boy racing, dangerous driving and speeding offences. The contribution is accompanied usually by an order to fit speed limiters.

 

Tralee court office distributes €130k

The Tralee court office is still among the single biggest contributors to the poor box nationally.

The €131,570 was distributed among 21 charities, with missionary and overseas groups benefitting the most. Action Aid Ireland got €40,000; Columban Fathers in Ireland €15,000; Oxfam Ireland €17,150, St Patrick’s Missionary Society, Kiltegan €11,000 and World Vision Ireland €10,000. Missionaries of the Poor received €12,000.

Agape Adventures which deals with volunteering for community development overseas development received €10,000.

A sum of €500 went to The Kerry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre, while the Listowel Conference of St Paul received €400.

In West Cork court area over half the €26,300 went to various branches of St Vincent de Paul. In Cork, the bulk of the €126,348 which was generated by the poor box in the various courts went to local charities. Cork Penny Dinners got €13,150; the Cork Samaritans €12,800 and Cork Simon Community €17,120.

Others receiving smaller sums in Cork included the Midleton Men’s Shed (€750) and various St Vincent de Paul branches received monies. Several homeless charities benefited from the Dublin Criminal Courts of Justice. These included the Capuchin Day Centre €23,730; the Fr Peter McVerry Trust €21,635; and €11,200 went to the Ruhama Women’s Project. Donations were also made to St Vincent de Paul, (€7,545) and the Garda Benevolent Trust Fund (€5,255).


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