Saturday 30 April 2016

Another day in court

I was called to Jury Duty a month ago and turned up for The Call last Tuesday.  The cut of my jib was considered too dodgy by the defence's legal teem and so I didn't serve on that jury but was requested-and-required to re-appear in the Courthouse on Friday at 1030.  On Tuesday the 70ish citizens were kept kicking their heels and gossiping for more than an hour.  On Friday, it was the same, to even less productivity: having been kept in the hallway for more than an hour, the Judge sent us away because the Circuit Court schedule had been unduly optimistic and a new trial was not yet started, let alone ready for empanelling a jury.  We are now requested-and-required to re-appear in the Courthouse on Tuesday at 1030.  Recognise a pattern here?  The working day for justice seems to start at 1030. On Tuesday, we got a profuse apology from The Judge but Friday she offered us nothing but instructions. Someone sourly said that "the lads in there get paid by the hour but our time is worth less than nothing" . . . because it was being wasted.

Ireland Inc. gets through a little over €50 billion each year and, like our Justice, is allocated on a adversarial system: a big bruising Minister of Children can insist on more money this year, which means that the meeker cabinet colleagues get a smaller slice of the cake. Actually, the most significant factor in allocating the money is inertia: this year's budget for Department Y is just a tweak from what it was last year, and the year before.  That's because, after the welfare handouts, almost all the money goes on salaries for permanent pensionable employees who cannot, no matter how redundant or ineffectual, be sacked encouraged to take early retirement . . . at a crippling cost in redundancy payments. Nevertheless compared to the three mammoth teats [Social Protection, Health and Education] on which the state employees suck, the Department of Justice is a distance 4th at the pork-barrel taking only 4% of tax-payers money.  Justice includes not only the Courts but also the Gardai and the Prison Service.
Department %
Social protection 40%
Health 25%
Education 17%
Justice 4%
Ag and Fish 2%
Children 2%
Defense 1.5%
Environment 1.5%
Foreign affairs 1.5%
Everything else 5%
In a case like the one which started last Tuesday, all the suits are probably employed by the State: the prosecution lawyers and the judge of course, and the 5 or 6 (!) Gardai who were required as witnesses, but also the lawyers for the defense who didn't look like they would be able to pay their counsel a €1000 a day and probably availed of free legal aid. But I put it to you, ladies and gents of the jury, that the cost to the state is much more than the salaries of all of the above. 70 people have been taken out of the productive work-force for 2.5 hours in one court in one week to empanel a single jury of 12 citizens. I get paid a king's ransom for teaching at The Institute, of course, but there will be some jurors on the dole, so let's call their wages €9.15/hr on average, which is the minimum wage for "experienced adults". That's €1600  for 'being available': not useful, not productive, just available for justice and thereby not available to work. harrumph!

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