The case for a national court for indictable crime

AuthorPaul Carney
PositionJudge of the High Court
For many years I have commented on certain
anomalies in the distribution of criminal business in the
courts of Ireland. Delays in the listing of cases in the Central
Criminal Court have now prompted the Minister for Justice,
Equality and Law Reform to have the jurisdiction of the
courts examined with a view to tackling the delay problem. A
working group is also undertaking a more fundamental
examination of jurisdictions.
I understand that the Circuit Criminal Court in Dublin
can give a trial date within weeks. In the Central Criminal
Court it takes about 16 months and rising to get a trial. If the
case has to be adjourned it takes a further 16 months to get it
back on the rails. While there is a “no adjournment” rule that
cannot be absolute. Essential witnesses get heart attacks,
accused persons periodically self-mutilate to postpone their
trials and victims have to sit their Leaving Certificate and so
As the judge having charge of the list in the Central
Criminal Court I regularly receive letters from the families of
victims and the relatives of persons allegedly murdered.
There is great distress occasioned by the delay for families
seeking closure. The alleged attacker is likely to be on bail
and frequently lives near the alleged victim involving daily
contact. What causes particular distress is when the case is
adjourned by either the prosecution or defence occasioning a
further 16 months delay without notice to or consultation
2001] A National Court for Indictable Crime 1
* Judge of the High Court. This article is based on a paper presented at
the University of Capetown during a study visit organised by the Law
School, Trinity College Dublin, in September 2001.

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