Category: Archive

Violent crimes create long backlog in courts

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — A huge backlog of murder and rape cases is clogging up the courts system and leading to delays of about a year on trial hearings, according to the Courts Service.

The logjam is causing concern in the Department of Justice and may lead to the government again examining the question of appointing additional High Court judges.

Longer trials, the involvement of judges in tribunals of enquiry and more arrests have resulted in an unprecedented 53 murder and 108 rape trials waiting for hearing in the Central Criminal Court at the beginning of the current legal term.

The situation is set to worsen as the number of murders this year is expected to exceed the 38 last year. In 1999, Garda arrested 31 people and criminal proceedings have begun against 29.

So far this year, there have been 34 murders. Gardai have made 27 arrests and legal proceedings have begun against 21 suspects.

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The government already approved the appointment of an additional High Court judge, who took up duty in February.

New legislation is currently being prepared to increase the statutory level on the number allowed so another judge can be appointed.

The number of Central Criminal Courts sitting has also been increased to four to try to cope with the workload.

In the year to July 1997, the Court dealt with 82 cases and this increased by 62 percent to 133 cases in the year to July 2000. Even that is failing to keep up with the number of new cases coming before the court.

A spokesman for the Courts Service said that some trials have taken much longer than anticipated, with one recently lasting 12 weeks. This means other scheduled cases on the list can’t be heard and have to be pushed back.

A Labor Party spokesman said the government should examine further judicial appointments to deal with the crisis.

"We would be concerned about the implications of the uncertainty and the lengthy delays," the spokesman said. "It is not satisfactory for defendants, many who are being held in custody, and it is a particular difficulty for rape victims who want to put their ordeal behind them."

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