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Irish Law Awards: Darren Lalor BL - Special Merit Award

Updated: Jun 23

In 2022 I embarked on a campaign to bring about a proper functioning criminal justice system for

all practitioners, particularly for those practicing at District Court level under the Criminal Legal

Aid Scheme.

This campaign was to highlight the very low remuneration levels paid to practitioners at District

Court level, and Rule of Law non-compliance in a European Member State where the liberty of

wrongly accused persons is at risk and where victims of crime are relying on a dysfunctional

system founded on bargain basement fees.

I have dedicated my time to bring about change in our criminal justice system with particular focus

on bringing all practitioners together, and a special focus on creating hope for all those who wish

to practice in our criminal justice system without having to rely on independent resources, deep

pockets, and hope.

I led the campaign to encourage all to come join me, and others, on the steps of courthouses

throughout the State. On 2nd March 2022 I led the first ever visible protest in the State where

barristers gathered publicly to show their growing dissatisfaction of Ireland’s criminal justice

system2. A system that is built on promises, failure, and neglect.

The protest on 2nd March was followed by protests on 4th April 2022 - 2nd May 2023 - 14th July

2023, and 3rd October 2023. Each protest has been well documented on television, radio, online

and print media.

3rd August 2023, I was invited by the Houses of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice to make

a written submission on the General Scheme of the Criminal Justice (Legal Aid) Bill8. My

Submission set out clearly what was needed at District Court level. On 3rd October 2023 I appeared

before the Committee and in clear and uncertain terms I set out in my opening statement where we were and where we must go to from there. The Committee considered my submissions and made

recommendations based on same to the Minister for Justice Ms. Helen McEntee TD.

This achievement has not only highlighted the need for significant change to our criminal justice

system at many levels but has also given hope to those who dreamt about becoming something

that only independent resources could achieve. Now we have an opportunity to build level playing

fields to achieve a truly diverse and inclusive criminal justice system for all.

The quality of any service should never be based on your own available resources. Running a

criminal defense practice on 20-year-old rates of pay tears into the very fabric of hope for District

Court practitioners. No medical professional would be expected to bring into their hospital their

own resources to keep it moving. No train driver would be expected to fuel a train from their own

pocket. Yet barristers like me at District Court level are expected to keep their practices going

from their own resources and from the resources of others. A failed criminal justice system is one

that is resourced by other industries.

I have given the criminal justice system more than hope. I have given practitioners the platform

to say enough is enough. I have opened the door for students who will bring about new skills from

old backgrounds, new adventures, and experiences from their own communities. I believe that

achieving this has enhanced the quality of our criminal justice system by not only sustaining what

we have, but by building on where we were. We are capable of anything when we all come

together. We must never slip back into a failed future.

I represent the most vulnerable people in our communities. They depend on my life experiences,

and skills I have built up since being called to the Bar of Ireland in 2015. They trust me to know

what they don’t understand, and trust that I will communicate same to them regardless of their

circumstances. They trust that I will advocate to the Court on their behalf to bring about a just

outcome for all parties relevant to the crime.

This is not about taking the microphone from anyone, blurring the views of others, or creating a

discomfort for the comfortable. It’s about having a properly functioning criminal justice system

and a level playing field for all. Only then will the scales be balanced. The Rule of Law depends

on it.

The blindfolds have been lifted. It is up to us all now.








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