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The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter TD has announced that the Government has approved his proposals for a new legal provision to facilitate the appointment of an additional two judges, bringing the total number of ordinary judges to nine (plus the Chief Justice). 

With the average delay for new non-priority cases before the Supreme Court is now approximately four years, the aim of these appointments is to alleviate these waiting times in the Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeal.

The necessary legislative amendment will be brought forward in the Courts Bill 2013 which is currently awaiting Committee Stage and will be enacted in the coming weeks.

The Minister announced last week that a Referendum on a Constitutional Amendment for a Court of Appeal will be held in the Autumn.

The situation in the Supreme Court was recently highlighted on March 2 2013 by the Chief Justice in a speech to the Seminar on Constitutional Reform and the issue had also been discussed by the Minister and Chief Justice.   

These appointments will facilitate the Chief Justice arranging for additional court sittings later in the year to address the appeal backlog that has developed, including the scheduling of several sittings of the Court of Criminal Appeal and for the Supreme Court to sit routinely on a divisional basis.

The Chief Justice has indicated that the appointments, together with efficiency measures already introduced, will help reduce delays and the financial, economic and reputational risks associated with delay.

Welcoming the Government Decision, Minister Shatter said “It is vital that litigants can vindicate their right of access to justice.  The waiting periods in the Supreme Court list are negating the efficient throughput achieved in the High Court, particularly in the Commercial Court list.

Last week Government agreed that the proposed Constitutional Amendment to create a new Court of Appeal should be put to the People in the autumn and has now further approved my proposal to increase the number of judges of the Supreme Court which will facilitate the introduction by the Chief Justice of increased sittings in both the Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeal.  This measure will underpin the ongoing process of court reform which is essential to maintaining our competitiveness and upholding citizens’ rights under both the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.”