State claims agency to cut sky-high legal costs

Sky-high legal costs borne by taxpayers are to be cut by a series of measures which will cap fees charged by barristers to the State Claims Agency by 25%.

The agency deals with personal injury and property damage claims against 54 State bodies, and is one of the biggest purchasers of legal services in the State.

It will outline new caps to barristers fees today, which will be 25% lower than what they currently charge.

It will also introduce a tendering process to force barristers to compete for contracts, setting out their fees for a range of High Court, District and Circuit Court services.

The new measures will also allow younger barristers, or those who have been in practice for less than five years, to supply services on less complex cases.

This will help foster young talent at the Bar and create greater competition by increasing the pool of barristers from which the agency can choose, according to the agency’s director, Ciaran Breen “We owe it to the taxpayer that we get as much value as we possibly can in all dealings on their behalf.

“We are a very considerable purchaser of legal services in relation to barristers. And we plan to use that purchasing power that we have to achieve better value overall.”

Under the new structure two panels of lawyers will be established — one for employer liability, public liability and property damage-related cases, and the second for clinical negligence cases.

The agency yesterday informed the Bar Council of its planned scheme. Full details including the maximum allowable range of fees will be released today on the Government procurement site, etenders.gov.ie.

The agency announced it will also manage a new compensation scheme for gardaí maliciously injured in the course of their duty.

Under the scheme, which will be brought before the Dáil by Alan Shatter, the justice minister, cases will no longer go to the High Court, resulting in saving of €3m in legal fees, although the right to appeal to the High Court remains.

The agency said it made significant savings in the management of clinical indemnity claims in 2011. Independent actuarial assessments predicted costs of €106m for the year but the actual cost was €81m.

Last year the State Claims Agency had 5,306 claims on its books by the end of the year, receiving 2,697 new claims and resolving 1,656 during the year.


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