Sinn Féin TD for Kerry, Pa Daly, has today condemned a lack of imagination and flexibility on the part of the Courts Service and the Department of Justice in relation to the current operations in Tralee Courthouse.
Teachta Daly said:
“In a response to my Parliamentary Question asking what efforts had been made to source alternative buildings to swear in juries and keep the trials local, the Minister for Justice stated that Kerry Circuit Court Criminal Trials are currently being heard in Limerick.
“This however forces witnesses, complainants, defendants and their families to travel outside the county and it removes members of An Garda Síochána from County Kerry for weeks on end.
“The reply from the Court Services about capacity in Tralee, which they maintain necessitated the move, shows a lack of imagination and flexibility. The use of sportshalls for swearing in of juries or use of technology to reduce the number of witnesses who have to attend proceedings could and should be looked at.
“This is another example of a lack of effort shown in relation to Tralee and it’s courthouse. With an extra amount of effort and imagination – a renovation of the existing courthouse, which has served the town well for generations, could contribute towards the regeneration of the town centre.
“Moving the courts to the Island of Geese/Denny Site would be unnecessary, expensive and would not be of any additional benefit to the town of Tralee. I am heartened to hear that other options are being explored and I urge Kerry County Council to demand renovation as the preferred option.”
Note to editor:
Teachta Daly’s PQ and response can be found below:
For Written Answer on : 15/12/2020
Question Number(s): 454 Question Reference(s): 43319/20
Asked by: Pa Daly T.D.
To ask the Minister for Justice the options explored in relation to the socially-distanced swearing in of juries for trials in Tralee Courthouse; if any venues were examined; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
Under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts, including the provision of accommodation for court sittings, is the responsibility of the Courts Service, which is independent in exercising its functions.
However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service have advised me that an assessment of all courtrooms and courthouses was undertaken nationally to assess how many persons can safely attend court while ensuring social distancing and public health guidelines are observed.
The Courts Service has advised there is no capacity in the Tralee courthouse to accommodate jury trials. The capacity of the District courtroom is 15 and the Circuit courtroom is 19. A jury trial requires a courtroom that would have a capacity of at least 25 persons including the judge, registrar, solicitors, barristers, accused, alleged injured party, gardaí, family of accused and alleged injured party, members of the press and a jury of 12. The courthouse would also require a room to accommodate a socially distanced jury for deliberations. In many courthouses, courtrooms are used for this purpose.
Alternative arrangements were made to facilitate jury trials on the South Western Circuit in Limerick Courthouse Mulgrave Street, with Kerry Circuit Court sitting in Limerick from the beginning of December for 3 weeks. 23 trials were listed for hearing during that period. While jury trials have been moved to Limerick Courthouse, the sentencing hearings for cases with a guilty verdict are scheduled to take place in Tralee.
Venues where Circuit Court criminal trials cannot be run, such as Tralee, will continue to be used to transact civil and family law business as well as criminal business for the District Court in the interim.
Finally, in terms of the provision of a new Courthouse in Tralee, discussions between the Courts Service and Kerry County Council regarding the Island of Geese site have been ongoing since mid-2018 and the site, as well as other options, remain under consideration. The Courts Service would like to expedite the issue as quickly as possible, which will require the approval of the elected members of Kerry County Council. It will be a matter for the Courts Service to decide on the final location of the Tralee Courthouse.