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Press Releases

8 July 2019

Courts Service Annual Report 2018

The report of the Courts Service for 2018 highlights an increase in domestic violence complaints, strong sentences in rape cases, a reduction in the amounts awarded in major personal injury cases, and the Court of Appeal settling down well in tackling historic waiting times and introducing efficiencies.

Chief Justice Frank Clarke used the launch of the report to highlight initiatives to create a stronger online presence for the courts and new procedural efficiencies. Introducing the report, he said that, “the allocation of additional, and vital, resources in recent years has enabled the Courts Service to advance many projects which have been under consideration for a long time. Much effort was concentrated during 2018 on identifying and planning for those changes which we have all known for some time are sorely needed”. The budget for the courts in 2018 was €135 million. The courts generated almost €50 million in income through fees with the net cost of operating the courts being €85 million.

The Chief Justice said that “projects including electronic filing of documents, online access to court registers, and systems to enable online payment, will hopefully lead to a significant improvement in the way in which we all work and deliver services to the community”. He added that, “in a changing world, we must ensure that the courts of Ireland continue to maintain our reputation for competency and efficiency as we deal with over 400,000 criminal, and 200,000 civil matters annually”.

Cross agencies initiatives in the ICT area included work within a ‘Criminal Justice Operational Hub’, a project to develop the sharing electronically of information across the Justice sector to improve the quality and timeliness of information available and reduce duplicate data entry. At year end proposals were being prepared on the feasibility of electronic lodgment of charge sheets with the courts, the sharing of court lists electronically with the Prison Service, and the provision of all court results electronically to the hub agencies. Video link was used to avoid the need for prisoners to be escorted to courts on 3,362 occasions.

An extended e-licensing system for pubs, cafes, clubs and hotels is also being rolled out.

The Chief Justice highlighted other efficiencies and changes in 2018 which included:

  • establishing a protocol for communication with government departments with an emphasis on highlighting how legislative proposals affecting court jurisdiction and/or operations impact the Courts Service

  • investing in a new ICT platform to allow the filing of appeals to the Supreme Court as a starting point for future online filing in general

  • reviewing processes, practice directions and rules to complement on-line services

  • a new one stage process to allocate dates in the Court of Appeal which streamlines the administrative process and is more cost effective for parties

  • delivering improved efficiencies in the High Court via the increased involvement of High Court registrars in quasi-judicial work together with new practice directions

  • delivering change to the operation of Circuit Court and District Court offices around the country following a court office review project.

 

Other changes in the year included:

  • access to court documents for bone fide members of the press

  • the opening of six new court buildings across the country

  • the appointment of 40 new judicial assistants to support the judiciary in their work

  • the availability of special rooms for victims and vulnerable witnesses in over 50 courthouses

Mediation is now available in eight locations in the country in family law disputes as an alternative to going to a full court hearing and a court imposed solution.  576 couples entered mediation and 365 of these reached agreements which were approved by the court.

There was a 26% increase in interpreters’ costs on the previous year, now at €1.3 million, with over 9,000 cases involving an interpreter. This is still 60% less than at the height of the economic boom. Common languages are Polish, Romanian, Lithuanian, Russian, Latvian, Mandarin and Portuguese.

In the Criminal Courts there was a 5% increase in the number of matters dealt indicating that new arrangements regarding administration are helping with efficiency. The Circuit Court had a 27% increase in its throughput of criminal cases – up to 60,556 from 47,716. There were 407,571 new criminal matters/offences lodged with the courts last year. Sentences in rape cases were:

 Length of sentence

Number of offences 

Percentage of total offences 

 Under 2 years

  0 

 

 2-5 years 

 12

 4.25%

 5-10 years

148

52.48%

 Over 10 years

122

43.26%

 

There was a significant decrease in personal injury awards with no increase in the number of new personal injury cases before the courts last year. The numbers remain at 8,900 new cases.

Awards in medical negligence cases in the High Court decreased from €99 million in 2017 to €91.4m in 2018. The average award per case reduced from €1,976,088 to €1,038,840 – a drop of over 47% in levels of awards on the previous year.  In other personal injury cases there was a decrease of almost 19% in the total amounts awarded and a 23% decrease in the average amount awarded in each case - from 457,854 to 351,263.

There was a 52% decrease in new possession cases year on year - down to 1,607 from 3,356 in 2017 – and a 20% reduction in possession orders made. There was a 16% reduction in bankruptcy applications with cases to seek debt recovery down 12.5% to 23,318. Personal insolvency applications decreased by 62% to 909, from 2,385 in 2017.

Asylum cases dealt with increased by 75% to 494 while there was a 53% increase in European Arrest Warrants resolved.

There was a 16% increase in domestic violence applications – now standing at 18,672. This included a 38% increase in emergency and a 28% increase in longer term barring order applications.

There was a 10.5% increase in child supervision and care order applications over 2017. This is a 32% - or one third - increase over the past two years.