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Legal Costs after Fine

I was involved in running a community music & arts festival in the Summer of 2008. I was the only member of the committee to sign/accept a notification from the county council outlining times for music to be played. The music did run over time but only after we had consulted with Gardai and local residents who were in full agreement. We also agreed informally to cease music for mass times etc - an agreement we fully complied with and we had 100% positive feedback from both Gardai and residents regarding the running of the event.......question continues below.

..........However the event was not financially successful and I, and others, were left with significant debts which we are continuing to pay.

My query is this:
I was taken to district Court by the council for breach of noise regulations, initially fined 7,500 euros plus legal expenses. (9,000) This was appealed in the circuit coDurt and reduced to 3,000, plus councils legal fees of another 1,500 leaving me with total amount to pay being 6,000. My own legal fees amounted to 600 euros including barriste’rs fees.

I did have a petition of support from local residents and had informal support from our local Garda Sergeant but the judge seemed unwilling to listen.

Following this, I asked for a breakdown of the council solicitors fee's which only listed Solicitors fees, Barristers fee's (500), V.A.T and a token amount of 40euros for something else - total - just over 6,000

Obviously, this is hugely out of proportion with my total fees of 600. I am currently unemployed and will be unlikely able to pay the amount in the 12month period specified.

Can the amount be challenged independently and if so how? any other advice equally welcome...

Only one witness was called by council solicitor, the local Guard who did not ask for/receive expenses.
Thanks again
M

 

 

Hi M,

Congratulations on your spirit of volunteerism in doing something for the community and it seems a terrible shame that a slight error on timing has caused you financial hardship.

My answer to your question depends on whether the judge quantified the actual figure you must pay (or if it was quantified in the Act under which you were prosecuted). If so then that’s that. It forms part of the judgment of the court and are stuck with it. If not however you may be able to challenge the legal bill from the Council by asking the County Registrar to Tax (or fix) the amount reasonably payable. This involves the County Registrar examining the bill in detail to see if every charge complies with the legal costs rules and reduce the amount if compliance is not present on a line by line basis in the bill.

If this is the case, you can ask the County Solicitor to tax the costs but the payment of the fine can't be reviewed and should be paid on time. Am I right in thinking that you have your own solicitor? If so you should ask him to require the council to tax the costs before the County Registrar.

 

Now, let’s get creative if that doesn’t work. It may also be open to you to have local councillors petition the County Manager to mitigate the fine given that it all arose from a community event. Alternatively if they can't do that you could ask the County Council for an increased grant of "support" of your group and use the money to pay the fine provided (1) that the grant is not ring-fenced for a specific project and (2) your group passes a resolution of indemnity approving the payment.

 

I can appreciate that councillors must watch themselves and abide by rules of transparency. That said the Council may have statutory powers under the relevant Act (you have not told me which Act it is) to mitigate a fine imposed by the courts -the Revenue have this power too for Revenue offences. Very often I find that when a public body says "we can't do that" they are really saying "we can but won't do that"

 

The grant aid can come from the Arts Officer of the Council and I think that that's the way to go.

 

Alternatively hold a fundraiser to get the funds and maybe the Council could be a sponsor or even be convinced to take an ad in printed programme for the event for a price equivalent to or near enough to the fine.

 

My advice is to be creative and call in a few favours. There are many ways in which the law (including the rules of transparency) can be satisfied and still get what you need. You are after all a volunteer in the community and should be fully supported, particularly in these tough times. Certainly you should not be penalised.

 

During the Programme Dermot Dempsey Solicitor from DFG Legal Costs Accountants emailed in an offer to represent M in the taxation of the bill before the County Registrar and waive his firm’s charges. Since the programme, I have been in touch with both the Listener and Dermot and put them in touch with each other.

 A special thanks to Dermot Dempsey Solicitor of DFG for his generous offer of free advice to our NewsTalk Listener

 

 

 

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