The Good Stuff: In part, the Barristers’ Code of Conduct (2012) states:
“Barristers shall uphold at all times the standards set out in the Code and shall conduct themselves in accordance with the standards of conduct expected of barristers in their practice, and it is their duty to be independent and free from any influence, especially such as may arise from their personal interests or external pressure, in the discharge of their professional duties as barristers.”
The Barristers’ Code of Conduct goes on to say that amongst other things: “It is the duty of Barristers, not to engage in conduct (whether in pursuit of their profession or otherwise) which is dishonest or which may bring the barristers' profession into disrepute or which is prejudicial to the administration of justice.”
It is refreshing to be able to hold up as examples of integrity and best practice, certain members of the legal profession who do their best in difficult circumstances to service their clients honestly, to the best of their abilities. Inasmuch as the Barristers’ Code of Conduct is respected and adhered to by any individual barrister, then we as citizens should be grateful and respectful of the service we receive.
But what happens when that code is not respected or adhered to?
The Not-So-Good Stuff: It seems once again, that the various codes of conduct; codes of ethics; or various ‘declarations of professional standards’ that abound nowadays in so many Irish State institutions and their affiliates - are simply there to give the misleading impression to the public and any outside observers (such as foreign governments and media) that we do actually insist upon proper professional, ethical and moral standards from our legal profession; and from State agencies and their employees.
Here we showcase just one example of outrageous fraud being perpetrated by a team of four barristers on the taxpayer - one of whom was a former Attorney General. (From the Irish Examiner July 2010)
A report in Thursday’s Irish Times outlined how Mr Moran (the Taxing Master) had expressed his “disgust and bewilderment” at the level of costs claimed…“In my 15 years as Taxing Master or indeed in all my years involved in litigation, I have never encountered such grossly excessive fees being marked by learned counsel or solicitors,” he said. Mr Moran went on to say that he could hardly “find the words strong enough to describe my disgust and bewilderment at the level of these costs being claimed”.
“This is an unconscionable situation at a time when every other section in society has endured cuts. A certain sheltered professional class which apparently has no regard for the environment in which we live is extorting extraordinary and unjustifiable fees. The Government needs to address the issue,”..
One of these barristers who surfaces in another I-I complaint for example had charged €75,000.00 for work supposedly done, but received not a penny of it. Another bill he submitted for a similar amount was reduced by over 80%. Between them, they had attempted to claim 2.1 million! This is about as blatant an example of deliberate fraud as we are ever going to see. If we call a spade a spade, this was deliberate and premeditated theft and deception, pure and simple. But other than being reported in the press, these barristers received no sanctions whatsoever. Is it too obvious a question to ask ourselves what would happen to any ordinary citizen who tried to steal even a fraction of that amount from the taxpayer’s purse using fraud and deception? One imagines the Government would immediately hire some top level barristers via the Chief State Solicitors Office or the DPP to ensure that the offending criminal was punished, right? Interesting then to note that these barristers continue in practice undisturbed, and that one of them at least is now employed by the wealthiest and most influential firm of solicitors in Ireland, who receive contracts worth approximately €22,000.00 per day from the Irish Government.
This barrister was recently deployed ‘independently’ by a telephone company to prevent a citizen from securing evidence of Garda criminal activity - in a case where the CSSO is representing the Guards - ‘under instructions’ from the Garda Commissioner!?
The Really Bad and Depressing Stuff: I-I members report multiple instances where barristers have lied or deliberately misled the Courts; have claimed exorbitant and unjustified fees; and otherwise acted dishonestly and violated their own code of conduct, but again, nothing ever seems to get done about it.
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