Court Of Appeal Creation Set To Begin

The Government has taken the first step towards creating a court of appeal to take over much of the workload of the Supreme Court. The new court would relieve much of the backlog in the Supreme Court by taking on most of the appeals from the High Court, leaving the Supreme Court to focus on constitutional issues.

At present, there is a waiting list of up to two years for appeals in the Supreme Court. On average, it receives 450 new cases a year, compared with fewer than 100 in the highest courts of the US or the UK.

A committee chaired by Ms Justice Susan Denham of the Supreme Court has been established to consider the necessity for a new court and to make recommendations for greater efficiency in court procedures.

Ms Justice Denham, who has a track record of steering major structural changes in the court system, is on record as favouring the creation of a new court to hear civil and criminal appeals from the High Court.

Among the issues the committee will have to determine is whether the change would require an amendment to the Constitution.

One of the members of the committee, Law Society director general Ken Murphy, said a key objective would be to relieve the excessive pressure on the Supreme Court. The level of delay caused by an ever-increasing volume of cases was unacceptable, he said.

“While substantial work needs to be done to flesh out the case for a court of appeal, and on the detail of how such a court would operate in Ireland, anything that would reduce delay in the courts system must be welcomed, by lawyers and litigants alike.”

The other members of the committee are: Bar Council chairman Turlough O’Donnell SC; Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill of the High Court; Bob Browne, assistant secretary of the Department of Justice; Liam O’Daly, deputy director general, Office of the Attorney General; and Eoin O’Leary, assistant secretary, Department of the Taoiseach.

Helen Priestley, principal officer in the Courts Service, is the secretary.