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17/07/2008

Courts Service Annual Report 2007

The Annual Report of the Courts Service released today contains a series of reports and summaries relating to the work of the Courts Service in managing the courts, supporting the judiciary, providing services to court users, providing and maintaining court buildings, and providing information on the courts to the public.

The Report also gives an overview of the caseload of the courts with a detailed series of statistical reports.

Introducing the Report the Chief Justice the Hon. Mr. Justice John L. Murray said, "The Courts Service is a large decentralised organisation with administrative responsibility for some 170 courthouses and court venues throughout the country. Its 1,100 staff provide a vast array of services and administrative support to the judiciary, the public and court users.

One of the main reasons for our successes is the day-to-day willingness of staff, at all levels, not only to accept and implement new ideas and new practices, but to initiate much of that innovation themselves.

In being so responsive and forward thinking the Board, management and staff of the Service enable the judiciary to deal with, and increase efficiency in, the administration of justice in many ways".

The CEO of the Courts Service Mr P.J. Fitzpatrick said of the past year:

"To assist us further manage the many changes in the administration and management of the courts, we have developed a Change Management/Leadership Programme focused on staff development and court users needs.

In 2007 this programme continued to be driven by a number of major projects including the Courts Accounting System, the Funds Accounting System, the Civil Case Management System, the Criminal Case Management System, the new Criminal Courts Complex, Business Planning and the revised Performance Management and Development System.

Some of these modernising projects were included in our first Annual Output Statement published during the year. These statements are a key element of the Budget and Estimate Reform measures announced in 2006.  They represent a new level of transparency and accountability across the public service and allow for enhanced Oireachtas scrutiny of the Estimates process".

Highlights

Courts Service Modernisation Programme Highlights:

  • Access to Court Services - 24/7 access to our court services improves as Small Claims Online completes first full year of operation at pilot sites and work on the development of an online public search facility for the High Court Case Tracking System was completed
  • 1.3 Million visits made to website - Our website www.courts.ie provided comprehensive information in a variety of languages and attracted 1,352,087 visits and was named Best State Body Website at the eGovernment awards
  • Confidence in Courts Staff and Offices - Independent survey ('mystery shopper' model) and study revealed a finding that 96% of staff interactions in public offices and on the phone were professional and polite, 91% finding that staff were courteous and 88% finding that staff gave them confidence in the interaction
  • Prison to Court Video Links - Work continued to provide for video conferencing between courts and prisons. A system was installed in Limerick District Court with a view to commencing video conferencing between Limerick District Court and Limerick Prison on a pilot basis from mid-2008
  • Improving Court Buildings and Facilities - Our Building Programme continues with now over €200 million invested in state of the art courthouses across the country and an end of year win for Tullamore Courthouse in th e Heritage category of the Opus Architecture and Construction Awards
  • Shedding Light on Family Law - Family Law Matters, which provides statistics, trends, judgments and reporting on family law proceedings, completed its first year of publication
  • Electronic Interface of Data - We worked with An Garda Síochána to develop and implement an electronic interface for the electronic sharing of information and data between both organisations
  • Case Progression - A detailed draft scheme of rules for case progression in the Circuit Court was prepared
  • Demystifying the Courts - A resource pack for second level students, Let's Look at the Law, was completed to enable teachers who have no previous knowledge of the law to introduce young people to law and the courts system in Ireland
  • Putting it together - Work on the construction of a 22 courtroom criminal court complex for Dublin began.  It will bring all criminal business before the courts in the city to one location.
  • Accounting for Justice - A central accounts office is established to handle all district court financial transactions as the Courts Accounting System allows for family law payments, fees and fines to be paid online starting this year.

Highlights

Court operations Statistics

  • Appeals disposed of by the Supreme Court in 2007 increased by 13%, from 202 in 2006 to 229 in 2007 and reserved judgments increased by 25% in 2007 over 2006
  • A 26% increase brings new Cases in the High Court, to 19,435. This includes a 70% increase in medical negligence cases
  • 73% increase in the number of new cases entering the Commercial Court list
  • 30% increase in Solicitors Act cases up to 63 in 2007 from 48 the previous year
  • More than 50% (17,481) of the 30,435 new civil cases issued in the Circuit Court related to breach of contract/debt collection 
  • 1,552 or 41.5% of all Small Claims cases were received through the Online Small Claims System - as the new system was rolled out nationwide
  • New Pub Licence applications down 17% and new Hotel Bar licences down 36%
  • Applications under domestic violence legislation, increased by almost 15% with a 21% increase in protection orders sought, and applications for safety orders seeing a 16% increase
  • Murder or manslaughter cases in 2007 up 18%, with rape cases showing an increase of almost 26% on 2006.
  • Almost 25% of all offences in the Circuit Criminal Court in 2007 related to larceny, theft or robbery.  A further 21% involved assaults.  Drug offences accounted for almost 14%, while sexual offences were almost 12% of the total
  • Criminal matters in the District Court increased by more than 15%
  • Road traffic offences continue to account for a large portion - accounting for over half of all cases dealt with a total of 281,641 in 2007 - an increase of more than 25%.

 

Annual Report