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24 new judges to be appointed in order to speed up access to justice in Irish courts

Minister for Justice Simon Harris has announced the appointment of 24 new judges on foot of the findings of a report on the functionality of the Irish court system with further recommendations that 44 new judges be appointed before the end of 2024.

The ​​Report of the Judicial Planning Working Group was published this morning with recommendations that higher numbers of judges be appointed to help speed up access to justice and clear court backlogs which were worsened by the covid pandemic.  

The estimated total number of new appointees is “likely” to be in the range 60 – 108 and appointments should take place in a ‘phased manner’ with the cost of phase one estimated at €18 million per year and Phase 2 at an extra €15.3 million per year. 

Ireland has the lowest number of judges compared to the population in the EU with numbers well below the European average. In 2020, Ireland had just 3.27 judges per 100,000 people, while the European average was 17.6. 

The report states that the current number of judges ‘cannot meet objectives fully given population growth, new and growing areas of law and the increasing complexity of issues raised before the Courts.’

Minister Simon Harris said that a specialised family court is to be established in order to speed up court cases and ensure that access to family law adjudication is streamlined. 

The report also states the need for “simplification of procedures” in order to facilitate law litigants and that these measures should be implemented “as soon as possible” with great emphasis given for the need to implement digitised document submissions in order to facilitate ease of access to information on specific cases to speed up judges’ ability to effectively review relevant information.   

A lack of “key management and operational data” was cited as in need of redress in order to “support the effective management of resources alongside IT/digitalisation development, better case management and stronger human resource management”. 

A need for “diversity” among members of the judiciary was also highlighted saying that  “at a minimum” this should  include – age, civil status, disability, family status, gender, ethnicity, including membership of the Traveller community, religious belief, sexual orientation and socio-economic status.

According to the report the operations of the District Court should be “restructured into a smaller number of larger districts” and be aligned as required with Circuit Courts “with a view to the more effective and efficient use of resources, and achieving better service delivery to court users”. 

The role of the High Court Master and County Registrars is marked for review “in order to assess how they could support more effective case management and other procedures under the direction of the Court Presidents”.  

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