“It is a real and tangible recognition of the fact that a functioning justice system is not a luxury but is a critical component of a modern liberal democratic society which is founded on the rule of law”.
Statement on behalf of the Chief Justice and Presidents of the Court of Appeal, High Court, Circuit Court, and District Court
We welcome the publication of the Report of the Judicial Planning Working Group together with the Report of the OECD which underpins it. These Reports represent an important and welcome development in seeking to improve the approach to supporting the administration of justice by investing in judicial resources and associated support.
The Reports provide an independent and objective assessment of the need for a greater number of judges in the system in the short to medium term, and recommend a model to allow future judicial resource needs to be assessed on an ongoing basis and judicial numbers adjusted by reference to objective criteria.
We also welcome the Government’s acceptance of the Reports, and the Minister’s stated intention to proceed immediately to increase judicial numbers and appoint new judges in the short term.
It has been apparent since the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) and other international bodies began evaluating judicial systems that Ireland has consistently had the lowest number of judges per capita in the European Union, and indeed, within the 46 member states of the Council of Europe.
Ireland has however, a heavy burden of litigation of increasing complexity. At the same time spending on the justice system has been low in comparison with other European countries
As acknowledged in the Working Group report, constant legislative and policy changes and reforms and the urgent necessity to eliminate backlogs created by the COVID 19 pandemic also created a need for more judges.
The Reports both provide the first evidence-based assessment of the extent to which judicial numbers have fallen seriously short of what was and is necessary to ensure that people and organisations can exercise their right to timely access to justice and are consistent with, and independent confirmation of, the submissions made by the Presidents of the individual courts to the Working Group.
The Government’s immediate acceptance of the Working Group Report, and its actions in moving to create additional judicial positions and fill them, is also and, in itself, a very important and welcome development. It is a real and tangible recognition of the fact that a functioning justice system is not a luxury but is a critical component of a modern liberal democratic society which is founded on the rule of law.
The effective functioning of that system requires resourcing the courts so that justice can be administered promptly, and in conditions that respect the dignity of all participants in litigation, and those affected by it.
The necessary implementation of these changes will undoubtedly pose challenges for the judiciary. We are confident that those challenges will be addressed by the judiciary in a constructive way, guided by the objective of improving the way in which the administration of justice serves the needs of society.
We look forward to having an opportunity to discuss the detail of the Working Group Report and related issues, and to a constructive and cooperative dialogue with the Minister, his Department and the Courts Service, with a view to ensuring that the progress now made is consolidated and developed in an effective way, which maintains and reinforces the essential features of the administration of justice.