Poor box donations raise almost €60,000 for charities

ALMOST €60,000 for charitable causes has been raised from courtrooms across Donegal in the past ten years, an analysis of poor box donations shows.

St Vincent de Paul was the biggest beneficiary of funds with the county’s branches receiving €24,255 between 2012 and 2021.

Second on the list was Donegal Hospice.


It received €12,930 from the court poor box, often used by judges to direct that minor offenders make donations in lieu of a conviction or stricter penalty.

St Vincent de Paul said the funds were welcome as over the 12 months to the end of 2022 it had received more than 200,000 appeals for aid.

“The requests are for a wide variety of help with food, fuel and utility bills, other cost of living expenses, back-to-school costs, clothing and unexpected expenses such as replacing or repairing household goods,” the organisation added.

While St Vincent de Paul and Donegal Hospice were the two biggest winners from the poor box, funds have been channeled from Donegal’s courts to a long list of smaller causes over the years.

These include the Good and New Charity Shop in Letterkenny, Friends of Letterkenny Hospital, Animals in Need, RNLI Bundoran, Forbairt Na Rosann and Little Angels School.

A spokesperson for the Courts Service, which provided the figures, said the practice of courts directing that money be paid in lieu of, or in conjunction with, another penalty is a practice which predates the foundation of the state.

“The practice appears to go back in history and stem from judges’ jurisdiction at common law to exercise discretion in imposing a penalty, if any, and/or imposing other conditions such as donations to the poor box or to a particular charity.


“It is predominantly used by the district courts who deal with criminal offences of a less serious nature than other jurisdictions. The individual amounts can vary substantially depending on ability to pay, other penalties imposed and the nature of the offences.”

A breakdown of statistics shows that public order offences are the most common offences for which the poor box option is given to defendants.

These include breaches of the peace, intoxication or disorderly conduct in a public place, threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour in a public place or failing to comply with a direction from An Garda Síochána.

It is also employed, albeit to a lesser extent, when dealing with road traffic offences, minor drug offences and offences against property or animals.

The years 2020 and 2021 were the most lucrative for Donegal organisations depending on charity and goodwill for their survival.

Respectively €15,100 and €11,705 filtered out from local courts.

The leanest year was 2017 when receipts totalling €3,295 were returned by defendants ordered to make a donation.

“There are many reasons and instances why the court poor box is used by judges,” the Courts Service said.

“The accused may never previously have been before the courts, the accused may have pleaded guilty, a conviction might be inappropriate or might adversely affect employment, career or working abroad prospects and/or the offence may be of a minor or trivial nature.

“When combined with the Probation of Offenders Act it provides an option where some financial penalty is considered merited but a conviction and fine are not.

“It can sometimes be a more meaningful punishment than the maximum fine where the value of a maximum fine may have been eroded by inflation.”

The Courts Service added that organisations wishing to become a beneficiary from the poor box may apply in writing to their local district court office.

Any applications received will be brought to the attention of the presiding judge.

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