How could this Happen, no Barristers Available?

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Criminal trial postponed as no senior barrister available to prosecute it

 • Yesterday 19:17

A criminal trial had to be postponed because there was no senior barrister available to prosecute it.

The case, which was due to open before the Central Criminal Court, was subsequently delayed due to the shortage in counsel availability.

There have now been calls for more barristers to be appointed to the inner bar to deal with shortfalls at that level.

The inability to open a criminal trial because there was no senior counsel available to prosecute it is understood to be an unprecedented issue.

The trial was due to begin outside of Dublin last week but the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) did not have a senior prosecution barrister to hand.

Sources said that an email was then sent out to every senior counsel on a panel, understood to be in excess of 40 people, in an attempt to fill the position.

However, this was unsuccessful and today the case was postponed once again. The matter is due back before the court later this week.

“There have been shortages, especially at senior counsel level in the past year, but for a trial not to proceed because there aren’t any senior barristers available at all to prosecute the matter hasn’thappened before,” one informed source told Independent.i

They added that the matter could be addressed by appointing more barristers to senior counsel to deal with the shortfall in numbers.

Other issues cited included backlogs resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, barristers being appointed as judges, and more criminal trials coming before the courts.

Last year, it emerged that the DPP expressed concerns that trials were being “impeded” due to counsel unavailability and that cases had to be handed over to other barristers.

However, it is understood that the recent example is the first instance where a serious criminal trial has been postponed because there was no senior counsel available at all to prosecute it.

It comes as barristers held protests at courthouses around the country today in relation to pay issues under the criminal legal aid scheme.

Dozens of barristers took part in a protest on the steps of the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin over what they say is the Government’s failure to reverse pay cuts imposed during the financial crisis.

This has left criminal legal aid fees around the same level as they were in 2002. In comparison, much more generous fees can be charged in the civil courts.

The issue is particularly acute in the District Court.

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