Labour Party spokesperson on Defence and the Irish Language, Brian O’Shea, has strongly criticised the under-resourcing of the courts system which is causing trauma and stress to rape victims who have waited – in some instance for years – for their cases to be tried, only to see them postponed at the last minute.
Deputy O’Shea raised the matter with both the Minister for Justice in the Dáil and with the Courts Service after he discovered that cases have had to be postponed at the last minute because there was no judge available.
“Women who have been subjected to rape are regularly so distraught that they cannot face a trial and all that it entails,” he said. “When the victim has worked up the enormous courage needed to face her attacker and go through the ordeal of a trial, it is the least she can expect that the State will provide the necessary resources and facilities to allow proceedings to be concluded as speedily and efficiently as possible.
“This is certainly not the case at present where Central Criminal Court cases have to be postponed because there is not a judge available. Vulnerable rape victims should not have to face this prospect as it can only lead to more women losing the resolve to give evidence at the last moment.
“All parties involved in a trial of this very serious nature, the Gardai, witnesses and the accused – but particularly the victim – have a right to have justice speedily administered and the Government has a duty to provide the necessary resources, including judges, and facilities to ensure that this happens,” added the Deputy.
He was told by Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern that the allocation of judicial resources is, in the first instance, a matter for the presidents of the courts.
“I am guided by the presidents as to the need for additional judges, subject to exchequer constraints,” said the Minister. “It should be noted, however, that judicial numbers have been significantly increased in recent years. Fourteen additional judges were appointed under the provisions of the Courts and Court Officers (Amendment) Act 2007: six to the District Court, four to the Circuit Court and six to the High Court. Furthermore, three additional District Court judges have recently been appointed following the enactment of the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2008. These additional judges constitute a significant increase in judicial resources and should positively impact on delays throughout the courts system.”
Deputy O’Shea also raised the matter with the Chief Executive of the Courts Service, Brendan R Ryan, who said that the permanent appointment of Judges to the High Court was a matter for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The Courts Service is responsible for the management and administration of the courts. The service has no function in the administration of justice which is a matter for the courts and the judges who are, subject only to the Constitution and the law, independent in the exercise of their judicial functions”.