Victims and witnesses must go to Dublin for court as judges won’t travel to regions, Dáil told
Posted on 20th October 2022 at 20:55
Minister for Justice says judges can’t just be added when greater efficiencies could be found within the current structure as well
Judges are refusing to travel to regional courts forcing crime victims and witnesses to travel to Dublin to access court services, it has been claimed.
Sinn Féin justice spokesman Martin Kenny said there were new court buildings in Limerick and “most of the time, half of the courts there are not being used” but people were having to take the train to Dublin for court services “when adequate facilities are in place in their own city to provide services”.
“That situation is replicated in many areas around the country. I am told that a lot of that is because the judges do not want to travel from where they are based and because of the shortages,” he said in the Dáil.
Mr Kenny highlighted the situation as he asked, during justice questions, about judicial appointments. He said the shortage of judges was having an impact on the full utilisation of the available services, such as court facilities in Limerick.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee agreed that “we can’t just add judges when greater efficiencies could be found within the current structure as well”.
She expects a finalised report shortly from the working group she established last year to look at the type and number of judges in place and needed to ensure “there is efficient and effective administration across the system”.
Part of the group’s review “is not just looking at how many more judges we need, but at how we can have greater efficiencies within the system at the moment”.
Mr Kenny said that “in many aspects of our courts service there are huge delays and backlogs and a lot of this is down to not having enough staff and judicial staff in particular”. He acknowledged the Minister’s commitment but said “we need to see that delivery very fast”.
The Minister said six additional High Court judges were appointed last year.
There is further funding for the modernisation programme “and a very clear commitment to establish a new family court to take that very difficult situation out of the current structure”.
She said a number of vacancies would be filled in the coming weeks. Along with establishing a working group to “bring more strategic focus” she also commissioned the OECD to “prepare an independent review of judicial resources, including benchmarks against international comparators”. The review, the first such analysis of the courts since they were established, took longer than expected.
Ms McEntee said the planning involved was about making sure the whole system was interlinked “including the prison service, the Garda, the courts service, our family law structures and the various different agencies and organisations that work within the judicial system.
“Many strands of work are coming together and all of that will lead to a more efficient and effective system. We need more judges. I am committed to providing them and we will have a report in the coming weeks setting out the numbers involved.”
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