Criminal Practice Directions for Dublin Metropolitan District Court
- This Practice Directive replaces Criminal Practice Direction DC03 and supplements some, but not all, of DC07 and includes other directions about practice and procedure in the courts to which it applies within the Dublin Metropolitan District Court.
- To manage and promote the fair and expeditious hearing of all criminal matters thereby upholding the constitutional rights of accused persons and ensuring public confidence in the Irish Criminal Courts system. All matters coming before the District Court must be dealt with in a manner that is consistent with the requirements of constitutional justice and fair procedures. In practice this includes
- Acquitting the innocent and convicting the guilty;
- Recognising the constitutional rights of accused persons while also respecting the rights of victims and witnesses;
- Dealing with the parties to all criminal matters in a fair and timely manner that has due regard to the gravity of the alleged offence, and the consequences for accused persons and others;
- Ensuring comprehensive information is presented to the Court to ensure fully informed adjudications occur;
- Encouraging integrity and the highest ethical and professional standards;
- Consistent compliance with the District Court Rules ('DCR') and Practice Directions.
Participants in administration of justice
- Participants in the proceedings have a duty to maintain the independent and impartial administration of justice and shall at all times maintain the honour and dignity of their profession when representing the interests of their clients. Obstruction or delay by any party to secure a perceived procedural advantage serves to undermine the fundamental constitutional right to a fair and expeditious hearing in the district court and damages public confidence in the administration of Justice. The DCR and Practice Directions, taken together, make it clear that the courts must not allow this to happen. Where the prosecutor is a member of An Garda Síochána s/he shall be bound by the ‘Guidelines for Prosecutors’ and ‘Code of Ethics for Prosecutors’ issued from by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Right of audience
- Parties to proceedings, Solicitors, Barristers, Revenue Commissioners, and Members of An Garda Síochána have a right of audience before the District Court in accordance with Order 6 of the DCR. Barristers may appear in the District Court unattended by an instructing solicitor only where they have instructions from that solicitor to represent the client in a particular matter.
- On hearing evidence of arrest, charge and caution the court will hear and consider applications for legal aid, remands in custody or bail. Prosecuting gardaí should fully inform themselves of all of the circumstances relating to a particular application before indicating either a consent or an objection to bail. Where the prosecution seek to attach conditions to bail which are accepted by the defence they should be clearly indicated to the court so that the court can adjudicate upon them. Decisions relating to bail are a matter for the court to determine having considered the evidence adduced and submissions made.
- In contested bail applications the prosecution should clearly outline the basis of their objection to bail under the O’Callaghan principles and/or the Bail Act as amended by the Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Act 2015 and the Criminal Justice Act 2017. Where bail objections are under section 2 of the Bail Act 1997 as amended the objections must be set out in writing and furnished to the defence at the earliest opportunity. A copy of the objections may also be furnished to court with the consent of the Defence. A copy schedule of any previous convictions and or offences committed whilst on bail shall be provided to the court.
- When an accused granted bail fails to appear on the next date the case is before the court a bench warrant may issue. The circumstances for non-attendance must be outlined to the court in full when the case is returned to court following execution of any bench warrant. Estreatment or forfeiture of bail will be considered by the court where there is a failure to appear without reasonable excuse. The bench warrant history will be considered by the court when considering whether bail should be granted or refused.
- In appropriate cases the court will inform an accused person of their potential right to legal aid, and in any case where such application is made the court will generally require the accused person to complete a signed declaration as to their means. Where the court determines that it is appropriate to grant legal aid the accused person will be asked whether they wish to nominate a particular solicitor to represent them in the proceedings before the court and in default of such nomination the Court will appoint a solicitor to represent them from the panel of solicitors under the legal aid scheme who are present in the courtroom.
- Where a solicitor assigned under a certificate for free legal aid cannot attend court to represent an accused, they must ensure that a colleague or barrister appears and is instructed to deal with all relevant issues before the court.
- If a solicitor assigned is not in attendance and has not arranged for another solicitor or barrister with instructions to attend the court, the court may entertain an application by the accused to assign a different solicitor.
- Where an accused person is before the court on new charges/ or on execution of a warrant, but their nominated solicitor is not present in court, an inquiry may be made as to whether the solicitor has been notified about the court appearance. If the solicitor was notified and cannot attend personally or arrange for a representative to be present in court, then the accused person may be asked to nominate another solicitor under the legal aid scheme.
Accused persons in custody in the vicinity of the courthouse
- Where a solicitor or barrister requires a consultation with an accused person in custody in cells within the courthouse or in the immediate vicinity of the court, s/he should so inform the court accordingly and seek to have the accused person’s case put back in order to enable a consultation take place.
- Only the solicitor assigned, or a solicitor from the same firm as the assigned solicitor or a barrister instructed by him/her to deal with the issue before the court, may visit an accused person in courthouse cells.
Consideration of jurisdiction
- If a charge is capable of being dealt with on indictment the prosecution must provide the court with an indication of DPP’s directions and a detailed outline of the alleged facts for the purpose of considering jurisdiction at the earliest opportunity.
- Where the court accepts jurisdiction, or if the matter is summary only, the prosecution must be ready to identify the initial details of the prosecution case clearly so that the court may make any appropriate directions necessary for an effective trial including the making of a disclosure order.
16. In the case of summary only offences, the court will forthwith give such directions as are necessary for trial including, where necessary, the making of a disclosure order. In the event of a guilty plea, to prepare for sentencing the prosecuting garda/ court presenter should be available to give a detailed summary of the offence, details of previous convictions and hear a plea in mitigation so that the court can proceed to deal with sentencing or request a pre sanction report. Only in exceptional cases should it be necessary to have a further court event for a sentencing hearing.
- Disclosure is central to the criminal justice process and a vital part of the preparation for trial. Provision of disclosure in such detail as is necessary to safeguard the fairness of the proceedings and the effective exercise of the rights of the defence should be made in a timely manner.
- In summary prosecutions disclosure, where relevant, should be made at the very earliest opportunity to facilitate the right to informed consultations between legal practitioners and accused persons in advance of a court appearance to fix a date for disposal by way of a plea or contested hearing. Disclosure should be addressed at the first court event after bail and the assignment of legal aid if applicable. Best practice standards for Prosecution as set out in the Director of Public Prosecutions' Guidelines for Prosecutors should be followed by the prosecution in this regard.
- In indictable cases tried summarily disclosure should be applied for when the DPP's direction is given and jurisdiction accepted by the court. Adequate time for disclosure to be completed should be outlined to the court so that the case can be remanded for a further period to allow consultation and instruction. Any deficiencies in disclosure should be raised in writing by the defence before the remand date so that the court can rule on the return date.
- Disclosure, where relevant, can include:
(a) a précis of evidence,
(b) any available statements
(c) custody records
(d) available CCTV footage
(e) A list of witnesses and
(f) If it is intended to refer to the notebook entries at the hearing, and there is no objection to them being viewed at the hearing they should also be furnished as part of the disclosure in advance in order to avoid delays at hearing and applications for adjournments.
- The factors to determine whether disclosure and to what extent disclosure is required in in a criminal prosecution being dealt with summarily the District Court include:
(a) the seriousness of the charge;
(b) the importance of the prosecution material;
(c) whether the accused has already been adequately informed of the nature and substance of the accusation; and
(d) the likelihood of a risk of injustice from non-disclosure.
22 With a view to avoiding unnecessary delays in criminal proceedings and to ensure the accused’s right to a fair trial within a reasonable period to allow the effective exercise of the rights of the defence, and. in order to identify cases in which pleas may be entered in advance of a trial date and to facilitate the commencement of trials in criminal proceedings in the District Court, on the second remand date the court will expect the prosecution be able to outline comprehensively:
- whether a file has been submitted to the DPP and the DPP’s directions sought and the time frame anticipated within which the issue will be determined by the DPP so that the court can realistically determine the necessary time scale for the appropriate adjourned remand.
- On the second appearance before the court, the court will expect the defence to be able to outline comprehensively the nature of any residual disclosure or related issues which have not been resolved through correspondence with the prosecution.
- Any disputed disclosure obligations, or disputes regarding the sufficiency or relevance of disclosure material sought by the defence must be resolved at the earliest opportunity. All contested issues concerning disclosure will be determined by the court on the application of the accused, the prosecution or any third party who may be affected by disclosure, including a potential third party witness.
- The necessity for reports i.e. medical, psychiatric, or probation service, certificates of analysis, interpreters, whether Vienna Convention obligations arise, whether any special measures are required etc should be outlined to the court by prosecution/defence and where necessary the court should be informed of the witness(es) for whom such supports or measures are required, and the language for which interpretation is required;
- Where there are no outstanding issues the court will expect that the Defence will have secured the accused’s instructions to be able to indicate to the court whether there will be a plea or whether the court will be asked to fix a date for hearing the case.
- Where a Book of Evidence is intended to be served so that the matter may be sent forward for trial then without prejudice to the provisions of section 4(B)(3) of the Criminal Procedure Act 1967 on extensions of time, it is important that the State to adhere to the time frame for the service of the book of evidence in order to avoid unnecessary court events.
- Where an accused person pleads guilty or indicates such a plea the following provision shall apply:
- Where an accused person pleads guilty the practitioner concerned should be in possession of all relevant information in relation to the accused together with copies of any relevant reports for submission to the court including where relevant evidence as to the financial circumstances so that the court can consider the proportionality and appropriateness of any fine imposed.
- Where the prosecutor is on notice of a guilty plea, s/he should have all facts of the case, details of previous convictions (if any), and have ascertained whether the victim wishes to address the court in accordance with the law.
- Unless there are exceptional circumstances the plea of guilty will be taken from an accused person as soon as practicable especially if s/he is legally represented, and in particular in the case of minor summary matters.
- Following entry of such a plea, the court will proceed with the sentencing process in the ordinary way. This necessarily involves hearing argument as to whether the sentence hearing should proceed on that day or at a later date to facilitate victim impact evidence or probation reports. In this regard both prosecution and defence shall have due regard to the requirements of Section 5 Criminal Justice Act 1993 (as substituted by S4 Criminal Procedure Act 2010 and amended by Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act 2017)
Setting a case down for hearing
- Before fixing a case for hearing the parties to the case must be able to indicate to the court that all disclosure issues have been satisfied and must also provide the court with a realistic and achievable estimate of the time required for the hearing and (without prejudicing an accused person) list the number of witnesses to be heard.
- Any directions for the preparation of trial should be applied for in advance of the hearing to ensure that all matters are addressed including:
- Timetable for the proceedings;
- The attendance of the parties;
- The service of documents and compliance with disclosure;
- The booking of Interpreter, and obligations under Vienna Convention where relevant;
- The manner in which evidence is to be given (e.g. arrangements for vulnerable persons; evidence by video link etc);
- Where a case may take more than two hours it should be specially fixed for hearing. Such cases will be put in for mention four weeks before the hearing date, when the solicitors for each party must appear and certify that the case is ready to proceed;
- Parties must be in a position to indicate the dates that all parties and witnesses are available and unavailable and whether there are any requirements concerning or the running and presentation of the defence case which need to be addressed by the court or the Courts Service in advance
- Notices are served on the prosecution in accordance with section 34 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2010 and the statutory time frame set out therein in relation to expert witnesses and their reports to court.
In the absence of such notification, it will be assumed that the defence has completed all necessary preparations for trial by that time. The defence are under the same obligation as the prosecution as set out above to ensure that any technology to be used has been or will be ready for use on the trial date.
- On an application for a hearing date, and where it is intended to apply for leave to have witness give evidence through a live television link in accordance with section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1999, or to seek special measures in accordance with section 19 of the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act 2017 or if it is it proposed to seek to use any other courtroom technology at the trial details must be provided, and it must be confirmed that the hardware and software concerned will be tested in advance;
- Only in exceptional circumstances will an adjournment or remand be granted once the case has been fixed for hearing.
Vacating hearing dates in the Criminal Courts of Justice
- An application to vacate a hearing date may only be made to the court in which the case has been fixed for hearing.
- When a hearing date has been allocated, it will not be vacated unless the party seeking to vacate shows cogent and compelling reasons.
- Any application to vacate a hearing date must be made not less than 14 days prior to the allocated hearing date, or such other period (whether longer or shorter) as in the opinion of the presiding judge will allow time to list other matters for hearing on the date(s) to be vacated.
- The application must be on written notice to the court and the opponent.
- Where urgent and unforeseen circumstances arise requiring an application to vacate a hearing date, the application should be made as soon as practicable after a party has become aware of grounds for such application.
- A party wishing to make an urgent application should advise the opposing party of the application and grounds for such application at the earliest opportunity. The court office should be advised by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org at the earliest opportunity that an application is to be made.
- Upon an application to vacate a hearing date on the grounds of illness, the party making the application will be required to produce a medical certificate within a period specified by the court.
Where accused is facing multiple unrelated charges / summonses
- Offences will be heard separately unless the evidence proposed to be led by the prosecution relate to charges which are founded on the same facts or series of charges arising out of the same alleged incident. Only in exceptional cases will the court accede to an application to join up separate unrelated charge sheets against the same accused. Any such application will be transferred to the end of the relevant court's list or at 2 p.m. for case management.
- Where a plea has been entered to a number of charge sheets or summonses which have been joined the case will be transferred to the end of the relevant court's list or at 2 p.m. list for finalisation.
Video link, video recorded and CCTV evidence
- The solicitor and counsel for the prosecution and defence shall be obliged to consult with and obtain the necessary instructions from their respective clients for the purpose of complying fully with this practice direction. The effectiveness of the practices aforementioned will be reviewed after the 1st day of June 2019 in consultation with representatives of practitioners, the Chief Prosecution Solicitor, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Courts Service.
Garda charge sheet and summonses listing arrangements
(A) Criminal Courts of Justice, Parkgate Street
- Court Nos. 1, 3 and 4 are designated as remand courts with hearings transferred from Courts 2 & 18 as required. There will be a callover of hearing cases at 12 o’clock daily. Cases that cannot be completed before lunch; i.e. by 1 p.m. should be put back to 2 p.m. in addition any case involving multiple unrelated charges / summonses will be listed at the end of the court list or at the 2 p.m. court list.
- Courts 2 and 8 are the designated courts to deal with Police Property applications which can be listed at 2.00 p.m. on the days shown at Appendix A. Applications to cancel estreatment warrants will be on 2 Wednesdays each month in Court 2 not before 2.00 p.m. Any case involving multiple unrelated charges / summonses will be listed at the end of the court list or at the end of the 2 p.m. Court list
- Court No. 2 and Court No. 18 are designated as hearing courts. Court No. 2 will deal with hearings other than those dealing with driving under the Influence of an intoxicant (DUI). Up to 25 hearings cases will continue to be listed daily in hearing Court 2. Any case involving multiple unrelated charges / summonses will be listed at the end of the court list or at the end of the 2 p.m. court list.
- There will be 8 DUI cases and up to 10 non DUI cases listed for hearing daily in Court 18. Practitioners are reminded of the need to ensure that a case is in fact ready for hearing and ensuring that all disclosure issues have been fully resolved before the date of the hearing. All pre-hearing matters relating to DUI charge sheet cases will remain in whatever remand court they start in until they are ready for hearing. Prosecuting garda/garda presenters will continue to deal with the cases at pre-hearing stage and may also be responsible for ’For Mention’ list that is held in the DUI offences court on the first Thursday of every month. Any case involving multiple unrelated charges / summonses will be listed at the end of the court list or at the end of the 2 p.m. court list.
- Cases involving domestic violence or sexual assault are to be fixed for hearing in court 18 on the 2nd and 4th Monday of each month. Applications for special measures should be made in advance at the fixing of the hearing date.
- The table at Appendix A sets out the revised distribution of business in the CCJ.
- There will be up to 25 cases listed for hearing each Tuesday in Court 8. Hearings may be listed where adjournment dates become free.
- The shared diary will be used for the listing of hearing cases in the CCJ courts in order to identify the most suitable available date for listing hearings across all courts in the CCJ or in Dublin Metropolitan District Court up to the limits mentioned above. Where a court is finished its list early in the CCJ cases pending in other courts will be transferred with a view to being finalised.
- In the CCJ, all video conferencing cases will continue to be listed in CCJ Court 2 - including cases requiring video conferencing to prisons, where approved. Both Court 2 and Court 3 are available when CCTV footage is going to be displayed during the course of a case. The mobile evidence display unit should be used for CCTV viewing in all other CCJ District Court for hearings listed in these courts.
(B) Blanchardstown District Court
- The table at Appendix B sets out the revised distribution of business in Blanchardstown District Court, the principle changes of which are as follows:
a) Garda summonses issued on application by the Garda Traffic Department and Garda Fixed Charge Processing Office will be listed in the first instance in Court No. 1, Blanchardstown on Mondays.
b) DUI summonses for designated Garda stations in West County Dublin will be listed according to the distribution attached
c) With effect from 2 January 2019, prosecutions relating to juveniles will no longer be listed in Blanchardstown District Court and will instead be returnable in the first instance, to the Children Court, Court 55, Smithfield
d) Applications in relation to estreatment warrants for the designated West County Dublin stations will be made not before 12.00 noon on one Monday per month, according to demand. West County Garda Stations are to be notified of the dates in advance by Blanchardstown Court Office
(C) Dun Laoghaire District Court
- With Effect from 2 January 2019, prosecutions relating to juveniles will no longer be listed in Dún Laoghaire District Court and will instead be returnable in the first instance, to the Children Court, Court 55, Smithfield.
- All summonses and charge sheets from previously designated garda stations [Dún Laoghaire, Cabinteely, Shankill, Greystones, Blackrock, Dundrum] will continue to be heard in Dún Laoghaire District Court. Charge sheets and summonses from Bray and Enniskerry Garda Stations will continue to be heard in District No. 16 and only summonses and charge sheets relevant to the Dublin Metropolitan District. Furthermore, new charge sheets issued on or after 2 January 2019 and new summonses returnable on or after 11 March 2019 in respect of Donnybrook and Irishtown Garda Stations, will be listed in the first instance in Dún Laoghaire District Court.
- With effect from 10th December 2018, applications under section 75 of the Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Act 2008 will be heard on Tuesdays at 10.30 a.m. Papers to be lodged on the preceding Tuesday.
(D) Tallaght District Court
- DUI summonses for designated garda stations [Tallaght, Rathfarnham] will be listed according to the distribution at Appendix C
- With effect from 2 January 2019, prosecutions relating to juveniles will no longer be listed in Tallaght District Court and will instead be returnable in the first instance, to the Children Court, Court 55, Smithfield.
Dated this 30th day of November 2018
Her Honour Judge Rosemary Horgan
President of the District Court