Courts Service Annual Report 2012
The environment of more for less
The Courts Service delivered frontline and backup services to court users in 2012 with almost 5.6% less cost to the State than in 2011 bringing about an overall reduction in the cost of the service of 41% since 2008. In that time wage costs have decreased by 15%, administrative costs by 38%, and capital funding by nearly 80%.
There have been root and branch administrative changes which commenced several years ago and continued during 2012 and, which despite the continued reduction in resources, allowed the Courts Service provide a commendable public service.
The work of the courts
The Supreme Court received 605 appeals, a 21% increase on 2011. It issued 114 judgments, an increase of 56% on the 73 delivered in 2011. 26% of appeals were lodged by personal applicants. There were 547 written judgments issued in High Court with a 3% reduction in civil matters overall. There was a 33% reduction in cases where fees were taxed representing 65% less in monetary value from 2011.
There was a reduction in personal and other debt cases with a 30% decrease in judgments sought. Other debt matters included:
• a 30% reduction in orders of possession with a 54% decrease in possession cases issued over two years
• a 14% increase in ejectment proceedings in the District Court largely for non payment of rent
• a 40% decrease in judgments for moneys owed in the District Court
• an 82% increase in committal orders for non payment of debt despite court hearings and orders.
Company and employment matters
• Company related debt matters which led to winding up petitions before the courts or cases before the Commercial Court decreased by 13%
• There was a 50% increase in orders to restrict directors and a three and a half fold increase (350%) in company directors disqualified
• Decisions appealed from the Employment Appeals Tribunal or applications for enforcement of decisions in the Circuit Court increased by 40%.
Other civil matters
• Judicial review of asylum matters decreased by 37%
• There was €112 million awarded in personal injury and medical negligence cases in the High and Circuit courts - ranging from €258 to €11.5 million
• There was a 20% decrease in small claims
• New pub licences granted increased by 25%, while the decrease in late night extensions was a 48% decrease on the highest figure for extensions (in 2005).
Legislative changes which allowed additional categories of persons apply for safety and protection orders led to a 19% increase in applications to the District Court under the domestic violence legislation. Spouses remained the primary applicants for relief representing 51% of applicants for barring orders, 55% of applicants for interim barring orders, 41% of applicants for safety orders and 42% of applicants for protection orders.
A feature of the crime statistics was the significant decrease in high visibility, high nuisance and highly dangerous activity. Almost 60% of District Court summary matters were road traffic related. In addition there was/were:
• 384,231 offences relating to 158,898 defendants before the courts with 693 criminal trials
• 401,000 less serious criminal matters heard in the District Court
• a 20% decrease in murder cases year on year and a 32% increase in rape cases over two years
• almost 20% less bail orders in the High Court
• 2,500 prison sentences handed down in Circuit Courts for more serious crimes
• a 10% decrease in more minor drug offences, a 22% decrease in public order and less serious assaults and a 33% decrease in drink driving orders.
Speaking about the marked decrease in public order and more minor assaults Chief Justice Mrs. Justice Susan Denham said, "we might well stop and wonder why there was such a decrease in these high visibility and high nuisance criminal activities. Is this related to the effects of greater emigration or a lessened population? Are intervention and awareness programmes working? Are the sanctions of the courts taking effect? The answers to these questions are for a more criminological and thorough examination than we can go through in the Annual Report. Whatever the answers they, and the other changing statistics, show that our courts mirror an ever changing society. This requires a flexible and creative approach by the Courts Service and the judiciary to streamline services between areas as unexpected, and often unexplained, increases and decreases emerge year by year and across decades".