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Significant Increase In Judicial Resources Announced.

Significant increase in judicial resources, to improve access to justice, announced.

  • Minister for Justice secures government approval for 24 additional judges to be appointed in 2023.
  • Report recommends a second phase of 20 judges in two phases by 2024.
  • Significant investment will support establishment of Planning and Environmental Court and dedicated Family Courts.
  • Reforms and efficiencies at centre of investment plan.

The Minister for Justice, Mr Simon Harris TD, has today announced that he has secured Government approval to dramatically increase the number of judges to facilitate greater access to justice, support the Government’s priorities to establish a Planning and Environmental Court and dedicated Family Courts, and to clear Covid backlogs.

Minister Harris’s intention is to appoint an initial tranche of 24 new judges in 2023, with a further 20 new judges following the implementation of reforms and efficiencies.

This decision comes following Government approval earlier this week to publish the report of the Judicial Planning Working Group, which can be found here.

The Group was established in 2021 by Minister Helen McEntee to bring a strategic focus to planning the number and type of judges required to ensure the efficient administration of justice in Ireland over the next five years.

Announcing the decision at the Chief Justice’s Access to Justice Conference in Dublin Castle today, Minister Harris said: “I am committed to improving access to justice for all of our citizens and I want to ensure that our Courts are properly resourced to deliver on Government priorities such as a Planning and Environmental Court and new Family Courts.
Having an efficient courts system that provides timely access to justice is of central importance to society. The courts exist to protect our rights and uphold the rule of law, and at some point we are all likely to have reason to interact with the courts system. When we do, it is important that we experience an efficient, fair and timely service that is equally accessible to all.
It is a priority for me, as Minister for Justice, to ensure that the courts are resourced to administer justice efficiently and effectively – this is central to providing access to justice.
I am very pleased to announce Government approval of my proposal to appoint 24 additional judges to the courts in Ireland by the end of 2023. This decision has been recommended by the Judicial Planning Working Group, and informed by an independent review of judicial resource needs by the OECD.
We intend to increase the number of judges in two phases, beginning with 24 additional judges this year and a further 20 judges subject to an assessment of the impact of the initial appointments.
This will ultimately increase the overall number of judges from 173 to 217.
This substantial increase in judicial resources will be complemented by the ongoing implementation of the far-reaching Courts Service Modernisation Plan, for which additional funding has been provided in 2023, as well as strategic reforms to court operations including the frequency, location and management of courts.
Following this, as recommended by the Judicial Planning Working Group, we will further review the efficiencies achieved, and consider on a medium to longer term basis what additional resources might be required.
We must also drive the modernisation and Digital First agenda across the entire Justice Sector.”

To help inform the deliberations of the Working Group, the OECD was commissioned to prepare an independent review of Ireland’s judicial resource needs. The OECD’s report can be found here.

The Working Group’s recommendations and evidence to support the appointment of additional judges take account of the OECD’s findings; the impact of COVID-19 on exacerbating backlogs in the courts system; growing caseloads combined with increased case complexity; population growth; new legislation requiring court resources to discharge including the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act 2015; and policy initiatives under the Programme for Government including a dedicated Planning and Environmental Law Court and a Family Law Bill.

Both the Working Group and OECD have highlighted the need for a substantial programme of change initiatives without which the demand for additional judges would be even higher.

Key proposals to be considered include:

  • District and Circuit Courts sitting 5 days a week;
  • Impact assessment for policy or legislative proposals impacting court operations;
  • Strategic HR for the judiciary;
  • Restructuring the District Court;
  • Reviewing the Circuit Court geographical areas;
  • Additional powers for Court Presidents to manage their court jurisdictions;
  • Extensive recommendations relating to data collection and management.

The Group recommended that the additional judicial resources should be phased in, with subsequent phases dependent on the availability of measurable data and progress in achieving greater efficiency and more productivity within the courts system as a whole.

The Report also highlights the importance of developing a structured system for planning and deploying judicial resources which recognises organisational interdependencies and a whole of system approach.

Minister Harris added: “I want to thank all the members of the Working Group, especially the chair, former Secretary General of the Department of Education, Ms Brigid McManus, for their dedication and exceptional work.
The courts will mark the centenary of the Courts of Justice Act in 2024 and it is appropriate that this will be marked by the most significant reform of the last century.
An independent, impartial, and efficient judiciary and courts system is critical to our democracy and I am confident this injection of new judges and the important reforms recommended will, when implemented, help to improve the operation of one of the State’s most important institutions.
My Department is committed to driving the modernisation and Digital First agenda across the entire Justice Sector. We will work with the Courts Service and the Judiciary to deliver a number of important commitments in the Programme for Government which will help ensure that we have a strong, modern courts service facing into its second century.”


Landmark Policing, Security & Community Safety Bill 2023 Begins Its Legislative Journey.

This Bill has four main objectives:

  • Making the prevention of harm and protection of people, who are vulnerable or at risk, an objective of An Garda Síochána and making the safety of communities a ‘whole of government responsibility.
  • Strengthening and consolidating independent, external oversight of An Garda Síochána.
  • Enhancing the internal governance of An Garda Síochána and the role of the Garda Commissioner as Chief Executive Officer [CEO or highest-ranking officer].
  • Improving the independent oversight of our national security infrastructure.

The Minister for Justice, Mr Simon Harris TD, is pleased to announce that the landmark ‘Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill 2023’ is being debated at Second Stage in Dáil Éireann today, marking the beginning of its legislative journey. The Minister of State with responsibility for Law Reform and Youth Justice, James Browne TD, introduced the Bill to the Dáil today on the Minister’s behalf.

The Bill will deliver on many recommendations made by the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland (CoFPI), marking a new departure for policing in Ireland. It provides a comprehensive and robust framework of accountability, governance and oversight of policing and security and a new approach to community safety, focused on the need for collaboration and co-ordination between various State agencies.

Speaking today, Minister Harris said: “This landmark Bill provides a new framework for policing, security and community safety in Ireland; as recommended by the Commission on the Future of Policing.

It has been developed following extensive consultation with key stakeholders, including An Garda Síochána and the policing oversight bodies, and takes into account the recommendations made by the Justice Committee in its Pre-Legislative Scrutiny Report and the submissions that were made by a range of contributors during that process.

An Garda Síochána play a frontline role in preventing and addressing crime, but the sometimes more unrecognised element of their work is the role they play in preventing harm in communities, particularly harm to vulnerable people; including those suffering from acute mental health issues, addiction issues and homelessness.

Building safer and stronger communities by preventing crime and preventing harm is not and cannot be the responsibility of An Garda Síochána alone. It is a shared responsibility across Government, and it requires the buy-in and collaboration of other Departments and agencies such as health and social services, local authorities and the wider community working together to really effect change. So while this Bill will make the prevention of harm a clear objective of An Garda Síochána, it will also set in statute the cross-Government responsibility for community safety.

The Bill introduces a package of measures to ensure that the oversight framework for policing is coherent; supporting clear and effective accountability and ultimately better policing. It provides for the establishment of a new Policing and Community Safety Authority which will merge the existing broad – ranging functions of the Policing Authority and the inspection function of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate, building on their good work to date.

The Bill also provides for reformed processes and procedures for the handling and investigation of allegations of Garda wrongdoing in a new Office of the Police Ombudsman, which will strengthen the mandate of the existing Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.

We are also strengthening internal governance by establishing a new non-executive Board of An Garda Síochána. The Board will oversee the strategic direction of the organisation including the development of the capacity, capability and optimum use of resources and ensuring compliance with An Garda Síochána’s public sector duty under human rights and equality legislation. The Board will also oversee arrangements for managing the performance of the Garda Commissioner. However, the Board’s role will not extend to operational policing or security matters which remain within the remit and functional independence of the Garda Commissioner.
Finally, the Bill will improve the oversight of national security arrangements in the State through the establishment of an Independent Examiner of security legislation.
This was a key recommendation of the Commission’s report, which recognised that responsibility for the security of the State did not rest solely in An Garda Síochána, and is modelled to a large extent on similar oversight mechanisms internationally.
I look forward to working with all colleagues in the House to enact this important legislation this year, with a view to having it commenced in January 2024.”

When enacted, the Bill will repeal the Garda Síochána Act 2005 (as amended) in its entirety.

Implementation of the Bill is progressing in parallel with its legislative journey. The Department is already engaged in planning and coordinating this vital work, in conjunction with our Agency partners, so that the provisions and the new bodies can be put in place promptly on the Bill’s commencement.


Extension of Temporary Protection Permissions Granted To Persons Fleeing Ukraine War

  • Temporary Protection* extended a further 12 months to March 2024.
  • Beneficiaries of Temporary Protection in Ireland do not need to take any action.
  • Minister says this will provide certainty to beneficiaries and organisations delivering supports.

* Temporary Protection:- The Temporary Protection Directive (Council Directive 2001/55/EC) sets out the minimum standards of protection to be provided by EU Member States to third country nationals, in the event of a mass influx of displaced persons, latter who are unable to return to their country of origin.
This Directive was activated for the first time by the Council on March 4th 2022.
Duration of Temporary Protection:- Article 4 of the Directive provides that the duration of temporary protection is initially for one year and unless terminated under the terms of the Directive, it may be extended automatically by six monthly periods for a maximum of one year.
The EU Commission has recently confirmed that due to the ongoing situation in Ukraine, temporary protection will now be extended automatically until March 2024.

Mr Simon Harris T.D.

The Minister for Justice, Mr Simon Harris T.D. today announced that the temporary protection permission that has been granted to those who have arrived in Ireland, fleeing the invasion of Ukraine, will be extended for a further 12 months to March 2024.

In making the announcement today the Minister stated; “Russia’s aggression against Ukraine continues with new offensives against towns and cities. Missile and drone strikes against civilians and critical infrastructure continue. Many lives have been lost, and millions of innocent civilians have been driven from their homes.

The Irish government and our colleagues across Europe continue to stand resolutely with the Ukrainian government and its people. The commitment to European solidarity is evident now more than ever and is reflected in the recent EU Commission decision to extend temporary protection until March 2024.
In that regard, I am pleased to announce the extension of temporary protection permissions to people fleeing the war in Ukraine for a further 12 months to March 2024. This will give reassurance to the people who have sought shelter and security here from the war in Ukraine that they will have continued access to the supports that they need. It also provides certainty to the various organisations involved in providing those supports of the future requirements and expectations.

Ireland has never before seen so many people arrive in such a short time frame. It is our moral imperative to provide support to the Ukrainian people and I am proud of the welcome and support our communities across the country have delivered.

I would also like to acknowledge the contribution those arriving have made, particularly to our economy as many avail of the opportunity to work. I hope that today’s announcement also provides certainty to employers, many of whom are benefitting from the skills and labour of people who have arrived here from Ukraine.”

The Department began granting Temporary Protection to persons fleeing the war in Ukraine on March 9th, 2022. To date some 75,000 people have been given Temporary Protection here in Ireland.

Each permission is granted for a period of 12 months from the date of issue, meaning that the initial permissions granted will expire on 9 March 2023. Therefore, permissions are due to be renewed/extended from March 2023.

In order to give beneficiaries of temporary protection reassurance as to their ongoing protection status in Ireland, an extension of 12 months permission is now being announced, (to March 2024).

While the extension is automatically applied to those who hold temporary permission and no specific action is this regard is required on the part of beneficiaries, a confirmation notice, confirming this extension is available on the Irish immigration website available HERE.
This can be downloaded and printed by Beneficiaries of Temporary Protection (BOTP) as evidence of the extension which, along with their original Temporary Protection permission certificate, will confirm their current status in the Irish State.


Diamorphine, Street Value €14,000, Seized At Thurles Railway Station.

Gardaí attached to Unit D Thurles, whilst carrying out patrols at Thurles Railway Station this evening, encountered a male acting suspiciously in the area.

Picture courtesy of An Garda Síochána.

The male was subsequently searched under the Misuse of Drugs Act and a large quantity of suspected Diamorphine, with an estimated street value of €14,000 was located and seized.
The male was arrested and detained at Thurles Garda Station, with file being prepared for the DPP.

Diamorphine, also known under its old brand name ‘Heroin’, is a potent opioid, mainly used as a recreational drug for its euphoric effect. Same is a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it is subject to the highest degree of control and classified as a prohibited controlled substance in the Republic of Ireland.
The substance remains the most commonly encountered opioid in Ireland and throughout the European Union.


Candidates Invited For Consideration As Ireland’s Rep On Council Of Europe Committee.

Minister for Justice, Mr Simon Harris T.D., today opened the application process for suitably qualified candidates to be considered for appointment as Ireland’s representative on the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT).

The CPT was set up under the Council of Europe’s European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which came into force in 1989.

It builds on Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights which provides that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” The CPT provides a non-judicial preventative mechanism to protect those deprived of their liberty against torture and other forms of ill-treatment and in doing so complements the judicial work of the European Court of Human Rights.

The CPT carries out its task by periodic and ad hoc visits to places of detention, in order to assess how persons deprived of their liberty are treated. These places include prisons, juvenile detention centres, police stations, holding centres for immigration detainees, psychiatric hospitals etc.

During these visits, the Committee has the right of unimpeded access at any time of the day or night to any place where persons are detained. Members do not visit the State in respect of which they have been elected.

Members of the Committee are chosen from among persons of high moral character who are known for their competence in the field of human rights or having professional experience in the areas covered by the Convention. The CPT’s current membership is composed of independent and impartial experts drawn from a wide variety of backgrounds including lawyers, medical doctors and specialists in prison or police matters.

In inviting applications, Minister Harris said “I am pleased to invite expressions of interest from persons who wish to be considered for appointment to the CPT. This public invitation process attracted a number of high calibre candidates when it last took place in 2019 and I hope that we have the same level of engagement this time around. The work undertaken by the CPT is hugely important and this is a unique opportunity to serve one of the most important and effective European Committees. I would encourage any person interested in contributing to the Council of Europe’s work in this important area to consider applying for this position.”

Further details on eligibility criteria and how to apply are available on the Department’s website HERE.
Note: The closing date for receipt of applications is Friday 24th February 2023 at 3:00pm.