When the High Court is hearing criminal matters it is known as the Central Criminal Court. In criminal matters, the High Court Judge sits with a jury of twelve.
The High Court has full jurisdiction in and power to determine all matters and questions whether of law or fact, civil or criminal. Its jurisdiction also extends to the question of the validity of any law having regard to the Constitution.
The High Court acts as an appeal court from the Circuit Court in civil matters. It has power to review the decisions of certain tribunals. It may also give rulings on questions of law submitted by the District Court.
A person granted bail in the District Court may apply to the High Court to vary the conditions of bail. If the District Court refuses bail, application may be made to the High Court. A person charged with murder can only apply to the High Court for bail.
In terms of the Central Criminal Court, the court sits at such time and in such places as the President of the High Court may direct and tries criminal cases which are outside the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court.
Composition of the High Court
The High Court consists of the President and thirty six ordinary judges. The Chief Justice, the President of the Court of Appeal, and the President of the Circuit Court are, by virtue of their office, additional judges of the High Court.
Matters coming before the High Court are normally heard and determined by one judge but the President of the High Court may decide that any cause or matter or any part thereof may be heard by three judges in what is known as a divisional court.
In terms of Criminal trials, they are conducted by a single judge sitting with a jury of twelve people but the President of the High Court may direct two or more judges to sit together for the purpose of a particular trial.
The High Court sits in Dublin to hear original actions. It also hears personal injury and fatal injury actions in several provincial locations, (Cork, Galway, Limerick, Waterford, Sligo, Dundalk, Kilkenny and Ennis), at specified times during the year. In addition, the High Court sits in provincial venues to hear appeals from the Circuit Court in civil and family law matters.
The central criminal court mainly hears murder and rape trials and since the Competition Act, 2002 also criminal trials under that Act. Traditionally, the court sat exclusively in Dublin. In recent years the court has sat in Limerick, Sligo, Ennis, Cork and Castlebar.
Appeals in civil proceedings from the High Court can be taken to the Court of Appeal, except for those cases in which the Supreme Court has permitted an appeal to it (a 'Leap Frog' appeal). This follows the establishment of the Court of Appeal on 28th October 2014.
An appeal against conviction or sentence by the Central Criminal Court may be taken to the Court of Appeal.
For more information on the procedures of the court and initiating a case, click here.