09/07/2019

Minister For Justice Welcomes Ongoing Improvements In Courts Service

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, has welcomed the continued improvements being made to Court facilities and the ongoing work to better meet the needs of Court users, especially families.

Speaking at the launch of the Courts Service Annual Report 2018, the Minister noted that the Courts Service has received €138.5 million in total gross allocation in 2019 with a total capital allocation for this year of €54 million, and drew particular attention to the ongoing modernisation of Courts facilities and the soon to be completed Judicial Council Bill.

Minister Flanagan said: "A visit to the courts can be a very stressful experience. Changes such as providing simplified and accessible information and changes in physical environment can make a huge difference for those who have to attend. Last year, a massive programme of modernisation of our facilities was delivered by the Courts PPP project in seven locations at a total cost of €150 million. This investment is going to continue with the Government's commitment to building a new Family Law Centre through a Public Private Partnership arrangement. A budget of €80 million has been made available in order to deliver this much-needed facility."

The Judicial Council Bill is expected to be passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas today (09 July). One of the key functions of the Bill will be to promote and maintain excellence in the exercise by judges of their judicial functions. The Council will provide for further education and training of judges as well as matters pertaining to discipline. Additionally, the establishment of a Sentencing and Guidelines Information Committee under the Bill will help provide for greater consistency in the imposition of sentences in criminal cases.

The Council will also have a key role in preparing guidelines for appropriate general damages for various types of personal injuries through the establishment of a Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee within the framework of the Judicial Council. This will address a recommendation of the Personal Injuries Commission.

The Minister added: "A legal system needs more than good facilities and a professional courts service. It must operate in a way that is fit for purpose. The Judicial Council Bill will play an important role in this regard. We now need to proceed with the implementation of this important work and I trust that this can begin in earnest in cooperation with the judiciary following the enactment of the Judicial Council Bill."

The Minister noted the importance of the Courts and the Courts Service in providing access to justice for citizens and drew particular attention to the review of the administration of civil justice in the State currently being chaired by the High Court President, Mr. Justice Peter Kelly.

The Minister said: "The Courts and the Courts Service are a hugely important part of the architecture of our State. They are what ensure our citizens have access to justice. The Group being chaired by Mr. Justice Peter Kelly will make recommendations for changes with a view to improving access to civil justice in the State, promoting early resolution of disputes, reducing the cost of litigation, creating a more responsive and proportionate system and ensuing better outcomes for court users. I look forward to receiving their report in due course."

(MH/CM)

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