Courts Service’s speedy response to pandemic recognised

Courts Service's speedy response to pandemic recognised

Frank Clarke

Ireland had a busy legal year with 580,000 new cases coming to court despite the pandemic, the Courts Service annual report shows.

Chief Justice Frank Clarke presented the 2020 Annual Report to Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton at a physically distanced event in Dublin today.

A key focus of the report was how the Courts Service adapted to the pandemic and was able to work remotely to deal with 580,000 new cases in 2020.

The Chief Justice said: “We all have had to adapt to working remotely and digitally in significant parts of our work and lives. The core function of the courts and the Courts Service is, of course, to enable disputes to be resolved through the court process and for appropriate orders to be made in accordance with justice and law.

“Much of that core function could not have been carried out in the traditional way because of the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. However, there was no option but to try to keep as much of that core function operational as could be achieved while complying with public health regulation and guidance. Some types of proceedings could only be properly conducted with physical hearings and new measures were introduced to enable that to happen to the greatest extent possible.

“Within a short number of weeks, many courts were conducting much of their business through remote hearings where that form of hearing was considered to provide an acceptable means of dealing with the proceedings.”.

The report revealed that, since Covid restrictions were brought in, 5,873 court sittings have been held via remote technology.

The Chief Justice indicated that the Courts Service is planning to build on the modernisation that has happened as a result of the pandemic and continue to practice that way in the future.

Other key figures revealed in the report include the fact that the Court Service has seen a 65 per cent increase in domestic violence applications in five years. Less serious drugs cases also saw an increase – of 66 per cent over four years.

Possession cases have seen a huge drop, 96 per cent, over seven years, while bankruptcies decreased by 65 per cent. The pandemic also caused a 70 per cent drop in licensing applications.

The full report can be accessed here.

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