Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice Martin Kenny TD has called on the Minister for Justice to provide more resources to deal with the backlog of court cases caused by the pandemic.
Teachta Kenny said:
“The pandemic has created a situation where court summonses have been delayed and backlogged. Up to 95,000 summonses are now in a backlog, with approximately 4,500 summonses being generated every week on top of that.
“The Courts Service is naturally doing its best to deal with this but it needs more resources. It needs to be able to up its capacity considerably. For it to do so, the Minister will need to put more resources in place to ensure adequate staff levels to deal with this.”
The Minister for Justice Helen McEntee responded that the courts had continued functioning on a limited basis even during lockdown with urgent matters of family law, criminal cases and those involving domestic violence were heard. Now there are plans to introduce remote hearing equipment for 43 more courthouses to enable cases to be heard in safety.
Martin Kenny responded:
“A greater level of new technology needs to be brought into play, particularly video links between the courts and the prisons, to resolve many of these issues whereby people are going for short sittings.
“This can be done remotely and using technology, but an awful lot of our courts around the country do not have that technology in place, and that investment needs to be put in place as quickly as possible.
“Apart from that, because of the large backlog that has built up, there will be a necessity to have more cases dealt with more quickly and the time allocated and the number of sittings per month may need to be expanded.
“The Minister will have to see what resources will be needed to do that. The argument has often been made that justice delayed is justice denied, and certainly some people would make that argument very strongly from an accused’s perspective.
“The level of attention that this needs has to be brought to bear on it, and the Minister needs to ensure that there will be adequate resources to pay the additional staff because it will take many additional staff to do this.”