The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter TD, has announced that the Government has approved the holding in the autumn of the Referendum to amend Article 34 of the Constitution to provide for the establishment of a Court of Appeal.
The model for the new Court of Appeal is largely drawn from the seminal Report of the Working Group on a Court of Appeal which was chaired by now Chief Justice Denham and which was published in 2009. The group recommended the establishment of an intermediate court between the Supreme Court and the High Court. The Intermediate Court would be the Court of Appeal and it would deal with most appeals from the High Court, as well as appeals from the Circuit Criminal Court and the Central Criminal Court.
The Court of Appeal, according to the report, would have civil and criminal jurisdiction and would replace the Court of Criminal Appeal, for criminal cases. There would be a right of appeal of all cases, including those involving constitutional issues, from the High Court to the Court of Appeal. Cases could be appealed from the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court according to the Supreme Court’s own leave to appeal requirements, in relation to matters of exceptional public importance. Additionally, there would also be provision for the Supreme Court to hear appeals from the High Court, in exceptional circumstances, where the public interest so required, subject to its own leave to appeal requirements.
According to the Minister, work will now proceed on the preparation of the necessary legislation and the Government will consult with interested parties on the detail of that legislation over the coming months. He also intends to publish the proposed constitutional amendments as early “as possible in order to give people time to reflect on what is proposed and to allow for a rational and considered debate.”