Court of Appeal will allow speedier access to Justice

20th September, 2013

On Friday, 4th of October, voting will take place in a referendum to establish a Court of Appeal.  The reasons to Vote Yes are compelling and there is widespread recognition and acceptance that the situation as it currently stands is untenable.

Currently, all appeals from the High Court, as well as appeals from the Court of Criminal Appeal, are heard by the Supreme Court.  There are 36 High Court judges who preside individually.  The Supreme Court, after recent appointments made to it, is comprised of 9 judges, and the Chief Justice, who sit usually in groups of 3 or 5.   Appeals can be extremely complex and may involve European as well as Irish law.  As a consequence, the resources of the Supreme Court are groaning under the weight of an ever increasing list of appeals awaiting hearing.  An appeal lodged today can expect a delay of about four and half years before it is heard.

There are currently over 600 appeals in the queue, with new appeals being added all the time.  Cases of particular urgency have traditionally been given priority but recently the President of the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Susan Denham, stated that no further appeals will be added to the Priority List as there are more than 70 on it already.

Annually, the number of appeals is rising.  It has gone up by 5% this year and the trend continues.

Urgent action is needed.  If the present situation is not addressed, the implications are extremely serious not only for individuals whose appeals are pending, and who have a right to have their cases heard within a reasonable timeframe, but also for Ireland Inc.   Businesses operating in Ireland who find themselves embroiled in legal proceedings need to know that their case and any subsequent appeals will be heard and determined without undue delay.  In particular, it is important that small and medium sized businesses do not find themselves under undue financial pressure because they are involved in a court dispute that goes on for years.  Multinational companies considering establishing a presence in Ireland will, as part of their deliberations, look at the efficiency of our courts as they too need to know that, should they become involved in litigation, matters will be dealt with both speedily and efficiently.  We must do everything to ensure that Ireland remains an attractive destination for multinational companies wishing to locate here, or for those already located here who wish to expand.  Voting Yes to establish a Court of Appeal will ensure that our Courts operate more efficiently, which is essential to attracting investment and creating jobs

The establishment of a Court of Appeal is very much in the public interest.  None of us know when we, or a family member, could become involved in court proceedings.  Should you ever have to appeal a High Court Judgment, it is in your interest that the appeal does not drag on for years at great personal and financial cost.  It is in your interest, and in the interest of every person who resides in the State, that we have a humane courts system that does not add to the stress involved in court proceedings.

Voting Yes will ensure that the victims of crime have speedier access to justice.  At the moment, criminal prosecutions which are appealed take far too long to be completed.  The Director of Public Prosecutions mentioned this issue in her most recent Annual Report, stating that undue leniency reviews and other forms of appeal against conviction and sentence have been considerably delayed, due to the backlog in the Court of Criminal Appeal.  Voting Yes to establish a Court of Appeal will ensure that criminal cases are completed quicker. This will help to reduce the trauma victims of crime experience, and may help them to move on with their lives.

The need to establish a Court of Appeal is well recognised, and enjoys widespread support.  The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter TD, who has a proven track record of reform, has stated that, should the referendum be passed, the new legislation necessary for its establishment will be enacted early in the New Year and the Court of Appeal can begin its work in Autumn 2014.

On 4th October, you have the opportunity to vote in two referendums that will result in real and positive change: one to establish a Court of Appeal and, the other to abolish the Seanad.

I urge you to Vote Yes in these important Referendums.