Wednesday 28 July 2021, Dublin; The Chief Justice Frank Clarke, Chairperson of the Courts Service Board, presented the Annual Report 2020 to Minister of State at the Department of Justice, with special responsibility for Civil and Criminal Justice, Ms. Hildegarde Naughton T.D. today at a socially distanced small event in Phoenix House, Smithfield, Dublin.
The Chief Justice’s brief words to the socially distanced few, recognised that the Courts, no less than all other sectors of society, had to adapt quickly and in radical ways in 2020. Attributing the innovative and speedy approach to work already underway as a result of the Courts Service’s recently commenced Modernisation Programme, the Chief Justice acknowledged that the main focus was ‘to try to keep as much of the core function operational as could be achieved while complying with public health regulation and guidance, with particular emphasis on supporting vulnerable court users and domestic violence applications.. Many of the innovations which occurred would not have been thought of 10 years ago’
The Chief Justice recognised the great effort made to establish the remote courts option, which the Courts Service put in place in a matter of weeks, within the first month of the pandemic. 2020 saw 2,411 remote courts take place, an increase from zero the previous year and 13,326 video links to Irish prisons increased from 3,798 in 2019, supporting the sector wide effort to minimise the incidence of Covid-19 in prisons.
Ms Angela Denning, Chief Executive, of the Courts Service also recognised the dedication of Courts Service staff, judiciary, practitioners, the wider justice sector including the Department of Justice to ensuring that the courts stayed open and safe in 2020. Ms. Denning acknowledged ‘Our introduction of remote court technology since April 2020 has facilitated 5,873 Court sittings, hearing thousands of matters and cases. Considerable effort was also made by Courts Service staff to make the most of our buildings, repurposing locations and identifying other external venues to ensure courts could proceed while adhering to public health guidelines and restrictions. Many staff working in operational roles, court office and support office roles found new and innovative ways to work and continue to provide access to justice to as many as we could under the circumstances’.’