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Understanding The Courts System

Understanding The Courts System

The Irish Courts System

  • The Irish Courts system originated with the 1922 Constitution which established Courts to take over from the British administration on the establishment of the State.  
  • Our present Courts are established under Article 34 of the Constitution of 1937.
  • The Constitution outlines the structure of the court system in Ireland by expressly establishing the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal and the High Court.
  • Provision is also made for courts of local and limited jurisdiction (District and Circuit Courts).
  • Ireland is a member of the European Union. Disputes involving European law raised in the Irish courts may be referred to the European Court of First Instance and, or, the European Court of Justice.




The Irish legal system is broadly divided into two branches: the civil side and the criminal side, each with its own specialised courts.

The Civil Courts

Civil actions are those where the plaintiff (someone who takes a civil action in a court of law) sues the defendant (someone against whom an action or claim is brought) for compensation for a wrong or some loss suffered.The compensation for damages caused is usually money.

The different courts can hear cases for compensaation for different amounts:

  • District Court - €2,000 in small claims or claims up to €15,000
  • Circuit Court - Claims between €15,000 and €75,000 (€60,000 in personal injury claims)
  • High Court - Claims above €75,000 with no upper limit


Family Law

  • District Court - This Court has jurisdiction in matters concerning maintenance, custody of, and access to, children and may make orders pertaining to domestic violence
  • Circuit Court - This Court may grant orders of divorce, judicial separation and nullity as well as any ancillary orders.
  • The Court of Appeal - This Court in constitutional law and civil law matters hears and determines appeals from the High Court

The Irish legal system is broadly divided into two branches: the civil side and the criminal side, each with its own specialised courts.

The Criminal Courts

The Criminal Courts deal with criminal cases. These are prosecutions brought by the State against people accused of crimes. The seriousness of the crime will indicate the Court in which the case is to be tried.

  • District Court -  Summary jurisdiction, No Jury – Minor Offences,Jurisdiction to grant bail in most cases.
  • Circuit Court -  Appellate jurisdiction from District Court,Deal with all offences except those which must be dealt with in the Central Criminal Court. , Criminal trials are heard by a judge sitting with a jury.
  • Central Criminal Court -The High Court has full original jurisdiction in all matters, civil and criminal, When exercising its criminal jurisdiction, the High Court is known as the Central Criminal Court, Trials for the most serious of offences before a judge sitting with a jury 
  • Special Criminal Court Deals with two categories of offence: 'scheduled offences' and those certified by the DPP. . It sits with three judges and no jury. 
  • Court Of Appeal - The 28th October 2014 ("the establishment day") was the day on which the Court of Appeal was established under the Thirty-third Amendment of the Constitution. Is an appellate court.  It sits in divisions of three judges. It hears and determines appeals from the Circuit Court (a "case stated" concerning questions of law), the Central Criminal Court and the Special Criminal Court and applications for review of convictions or sentences alleged to result from a miscarriage of justice. 
  • Supreme Court  -  This is the court of final appeal for both civil and criminal cases.  It can deal with appeals from (1) a decision of the Court of Appeal and (2) from a decision of the High Court.