Court poor box funds overseas charities

Local charities in Kerry got less than €50,000 from the court poor box last year, while international charities benefited to the tune of €480,000 from offenders who came before the county’s courts.

Figures reveal that the total money collected in the courts presided over by Judge James O’Connor was €521,677 — an increase of €18,000 on the previous year, and €105,000 more than in 2011.

Court offices in Kerry receive dozens of letters from local charities appealing for funds, but the vast bulk of the money went overseas.

For example, The Kerry Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Centre got €200 and the Kerry Hospice Foundation got €1,250, while Sightsavers International and Christian Blind Mission were allocated €120,000 between them.

Generally, the charities are not specified at the time of the donations. Instead, Judge O’Connor visits the court office in the days before Christmas and selects the charities.

A spokesman for the court services said the national picture contrasts with that in Kerry as most courts poor box takings are distributed among local charities.

Donations to the poor box are given in lieu of a conviction or a custodial sentence and it is a tool most frequently used in District Court sittings in Killarney and Tralee.

Kerry’s contribution represents a staggering quarter of the total poor box funds collected across the 24 court districts in the State, the courts service has confirmed.

For instance, in 2012 of the total €2.09m collected in poor box, the sum of €503,000 was contributed by Kerry. In fact so much money is now being brought into court in Kerry that court staff who are forced to count and account for the money on occasion have asked for security.

International charities, missions and aid agencies were the main beneficiaries of the Kerry donations. Of the 69 charities nominated, local charities got less than €50,000 between them.

The Kerry Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Centre (€200), the Federation for Victim Assistance (€200) and the First Responder Group, Glenbeigh (€400) come off poorly in comparison with the big aid agencies.

Kerry’s Talbot Grove which deals with alcohol and other addictions is to get €750.

Just a handful of local charities received more than €1,000 and none got more than €10,000.

* The Kerry Hospice Foundation €1,250;

* Kerry Parents and Friends Valentia €4,000;

* St Mary of the Angels Beaufort €3,000;

* St Joseph’s Home €3,000;

* Liam’s Lodge €4,000;

* St Vincent de Paul Castleisland €1,000;

* Tralee Women’s Resource Centre € 1,000;

Meanwhile, international charities were the big winners

Sightsavers international, which focuses on developing countries along with the Christian Blind Mission are the big winners, each getting €60,000 from Kerry offenders.

These were followed by:

* Ethiopia Aid €45,000;

* Oxfam €40,559;

* St Patrick’s Missionary Society Kiltegan €35,000;

* Society of African Missions, Cork, €26,200;

* The Irish Red Cross €20,800;

* Action Aid Ireland €14,000;

* Gorta €14,000;

* Bothar €25,000;

* Plan €14,000;

* Vita, which fights hunger and climate change in Africa, €16,000.

Other lesser known development charities include: Haki Water €2,500; Foundation Nepal €5,050; The Martina Lordon Mukuru Project €3,364 ; while the Tanzanian Tír na nÓg Orphanage got €5,000.

Among those donating to the court poor box in Kerry last year were a deer hunter who gave €2,500; and at least 12 boy racers caught doing wheelies near Killarney in the early hours during a rally in May — each contributed €2,500 to the poor box.

Kerry is also dearer than courts in adjoining Cork when it comes to penalty points or speeding offences. The average donation in some Cork courts is around €200, while in Kerry it is about €450.

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