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Courts Service Annual Report for 2021

28th July 2022

Courts remain extremely busy in 2021 – 531,000 new cases.

Fightback: Courts Modernisation Programme helped tackle delays caused by Covid 19 Crisis

Ireland’s economy, community, and society, benefit from availability and access to justice.

One third increase in numbers of criminal cases finalised

The Annual Report of the Courts Service was launched today and shows that Ireland’s court remain busy, are using modern technology to reduce waiting times caused by covid, and are dealing with over half a million new cases per year through the use of flexible and modernised approaches

Chief Justice Donal O’Donnell said in the report that,

“Adaptation and innovation are two words which might best describe our efforts in 2021, as we dealt with the ongoing effects of a worldwide pandemic, and the impact it had on people’s right of access to justice, and on the administration of justice more generally.

Those efforts saw many matters dealt with in new and flexible ways including the extension of remote hearings (virtual courts), the use of non-Courts Service venues, such as Croke Park for trial hearings, and the large-scale take-up and efficient use of appearances by video-link between Courts and prisons.

Each year brings with it inevitable changes to certain areas and levels of work, and the Courts Service has to be conscious to try to channel resources and court space appropriately”.

The Chief Justice remarked of the Annual Report that it is, “an insight into an important area of our society where conflict and harm, right and wrong, accusation and defence, power and weakness, can all be encountered daily. The Courts Service will continue to work and adapt to meet the challenges”.

Angela Denning the CEO of the Courts Service remarked on how flexible the courts had been in terms of using its modernisation programme to facilitate court business. She remarked on the number of video links between prisons and courts as having numbered 20,634 last year, up by 59% on the 13,000 in 2021 – and 443% on the 3,798 in 2019. She said that expanding the video technology to 104 courtrooms across the estate last year facilitated 38,176 video calls in total. She said this helped keep Covid infections amongst prisoners, staff and court users out of court venues: resulting in zero transmission of the virus recorded in courtrooms. Providing these facilities gives judges more options when hearing cases, allows for improved efficiencies and reduction in risk for the prisons and increased flexibility for users.

Ms. Denning concluded that under the modernisation programme the Courts Service plans to expand video technology to 160 courtrooms by 2026.

Speaking about the benefits of technology enabled courtrooms His Honour Judge Colin Daly, of the Circuit Court commented, on a planning dispute case that he had presided over in January 2022 which concluded two days ahead of schedule said:

“An application to adjourn a case, due to an increase in the number of witnesses and interested parties wishing to attend to hear evidence, was overcome by the ability to offer a blended hearing using video technology in the Courts which ensured that the case proceeded as schedule. It has made the proceedings so much easier to access”

Read the full press release

Read the Annual Report

(Image shows Minister for Justice Helen McEntee T.D.. Courts Service CEO, Angela Denning and Chief Justice, the Honourable Mr Justice Donal O'Donnell, at the launch of the Courts Service Annual Report 2021)