Ruth Coppinger: Paul Murphy granted legal aid because costs could 'exceed €100,000'

Ruth Coppinger and solicitor Frank Buttimer look at the numbers behind Paul Murphy being granted legal aid

Paul Murphy, legal aid,

Image: Leah Farrell/Rolling News

On Thursday, it was revealed that Paul Murphy has been granted legal aid for his upcoming trial

The Anti Austerity Alliance TD faces charges of falsely imprisoning acting Tánaiste Joan Burton during a water charges protest almost 18 months ago.

There was no garda objection to legal aid based on the figures in documentation presented by Deputy Murphy's solicitor.

Speaking to Jonathan Healy on Lunchtime on Friday, Ruth Coppinger stated that the expense of the trial would go beyond the salary which Murphy takes as a TD.

Coppinger, a fellow Anti Austerity Alliance TD, explained that Murpyh in fact claims a "young workers" wage, and does not accept the full salary.

Ms Coppinger claimed that "the legal costs for private defence are massive, potentially well in excess of €100,000. Even if Paul Murphy took his full salary, which he doesn't, he would not be able to pay the likely costs." 

However, Frank Buttimer noted that, while this case was a bit unusual, the cost of legal aid on the state would not normally rise as high as the figure quote by Coppinger.

"What makes this one a bit unusual is it seems that there are going to be a number of people who are going to be jointly accused, so that if you want to tot it up on a cumulative basis it might be expensive, but if you are [...] a one off accused appearing for your average trial, which would last maybe two to three days, the cost to the state of paying the criminal legal aid defence team would be no more than €4,000 or €5,000." 

Outlining the agreed scale used by the DPP, Buttimer highlighted that the fees paid by lawyers are around one-eighth to one-tenth of the commercial going rate, and noted that the amount was "derisory when it comes to matters of such gravity before the circuit criminal court." 

However, he did state that it is a significant burden for the average person which is why "we have a constitutional basis here that there should be in fact an equality of arms between the state and persons who are accused, and that's the fundamental basis upon which legal aid is an entitlement."