Murder trial lawyers earned €465k last year

The lead lawyers in the Graham Dwyer murder trial are two of the most in-demand criminal lawyers in the country.

Murder trial lawyers earned €465k last year

Figures from the DPP and the Department of Justice show the two senior counsel in the case, Sean Guerin and Remy Farrell, last year received a total of just over €465,993 (inclusive of 23% Vat).

Mr Guerin is leading the State case in the trial where Mr Dwyer is accused of the murder of Elaine O’Hara. Mr Dwyer denies the murder and the trial continues tomorrow at the Central Criminal Court.

The majority of Mr Guerin’s work in the criminal courts is done on behalf of the DPP and the figures show he received €135,509 for prosecuting cases last year. This compares to the €84,225 Mr Guerin received in defending accused persons in the courts in 2014.

Figures for Mr Farrell show the larger proportion of his criminal court income comes from defending the accused. He received €154,374 in criminal legal aid fees last year. Mr Farrell also did work on behalf of the DPP, receiving €91,885 in fees.

In total, the pay of barristers and solicitors last year totalled €63.2m, made up of €49.8m in criminal legal aid and €13.4m fees from the DPP.

The top paid prosecutor in the country last year was senior counsel Úna Ní Raifeartaigh, a lead State prosecutor in the Anglo Irish Bank trial.

The figures, released by the DPP in response to a request made under the Freedom of Information Act, show Ms Ní Raifeartaigh received €318,617 (excluding Vat) in fees last year for prosecuting cases. She received €194,778 from the DPP in 2013, when she was again the best paid prosecutor.

The 63% increase in pay is largely due to her prominent role in the Anglo trial, where she received €197,198 in relation to direct costs for the 49-day trial.

The figures show Ms Ní Raifeartaigh’s senior counsel colleague on the State team in the Anglo trial, Paul O’Higgins, received €264,740 last year.

A third member of the State’s Anglo team, the high-profile barrister and newspaper columnist Paul Anthony McDermott, bachelor of law, was also among the best paid lawyers last year, receiving €177,411.

Another top paid prosecution counsel was political pundit and newspaper columnist Noel Whelan, bachelor of law, who received €223,083 for prosecuting cases.

The figures show that the Limerick-based prosecutor John O’Sullivan, who has prosecuted various Limerick gang members over the years, was one of four counsel to receive over €200,000 last year, when he took home €203,560.

In prosecuting and defending cases in the Central Criminal Court for murder trials, senior counsel receive a brief fee of €7,127 that covers preparatory work and the first day, and a daily refresher fee of €1,562. In the circuit court, senior counsel received a brief fee of €1,716 and a refresher fee of €858.

Junior counsel prosecuting and defending murder cases in the Central Criminal Court received a brief fee of €4,752 and a refresher fee of €1,041, and in the circuit court receive €1,144 brief fees and €572 refresher fees.

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