Minister Hildegarde Naughton TD joined the Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Frank Clarke, the Chief Executive of the Courts Service, Angela Denning and Chief Legal Costs Adjudicator, Paul Behan, at Phoenix House in Smithfield today to launch the Courts Service and Office of the Legal Costs Adjudicators (OLCA) Annual Reports for 2020.
Speaking at the event, Minister Naughton said:
"I am pleased to mark the launch of the 2020 Annual Reports of the Courts Service and of the Office of the Legal Costs Adjudicators. This follows the remarkably complex year that 2020 has been for us all on both personal and professional levels. It has coincided with an ambitious modernisation programme for the Courts and the first full calendar year of operations of the modernised Office of the Legal Costs Adjudicators."
The Annual Reports, submitted independently to the Minister under the Courts Service Act 1998 and Legal Services Regulation Act 2015, detail the work of the Courts Service and the OLCA in 2020. 2020 represents the first full calendar year of operation for OLCA since it was established in October 2019.
The government has committed substantial resources to support this unprecedented programme of courts reform, with €158.8 million allocated to the Courts Service for 2021, including €8 million in support of the initial phase of the Courts Modernisation Programme. There has also been an additional provision of €5.7m for COVID-19 measures to enable court sittings take place in a safe environment.
Significant progress has been made in many new areas including the holding of remote court sessions (2,411) and video link appearances (13,326) from prison locations. Welcoming the innovative approach adopted by the Courts Service during the pandemic, Minister Naughton said:
"The focus on ensuring access to justice for our most vulnerable citizens during the pandemic has not just been the hallmark of a committed courts system and an independent judiciary. It has proven itself to be a mainstay of our continuing endeavour, despite the pandemic, to maintain a modern, caring, constitutional democracy.
"It is clear that the adaptations and innovations achieved in response to the pandemic have already given impetus to key objectives of the Courts Service Strategic Vision 2030, the Corporate Strategic Plan 2021 – 2023 and the historic and ambitious ten-year Modernisation Programme. We are already set to reap the benefits of the Digital First strategy into the future.
"As Ireland heads towards the centenary of the establishment of our courts system, the Chief Justice can be assured that he will leave the courts, and the judiciary, in a strong place, ready for its next hundred years."
For 2020, total exchequer funding for the Courts Service, net of receipts, is €129.245m (2019, €93.124m). This reflects a gross allocation of €161.378m (2019, €140.905 m), combined with total income of 32.133m (2019, €47.781m).
The Courts Service was established as an independent corporate organisation in 1999 following the Courts Service Act, 1998. Its function is providing management of the courts, support for judges, and information to the public, maintaining court buildings and facilities for users of the courts. The Service is responsible for the management of all aspects of court activities.
The Office of the Legal Costs Adjudicators (OLCA) was established in 2019 following the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015. The mission of the OLCA is to enable access to independent, impartial and objective resolution of legal costs disputes, provide transparency throughout the process and to provide a courteous and professional service in a timely manner, supporting access to justice.
Statistics of note for the Courts Service in 2020:
2,411 remote court sessions were held and there were 13,326 remote appearances from prison locations
the total number of incoming Civil Business cases in 2020 amounted to 162,980. There were 98,388 cases resolved during the year
the total number of incoming Criminal Offence and Appeals in 2020 amounted to 415,992. There were 225,776 cases resolved during the year
there were 260 appeals in respect of 1,405 offences lodged in the Court of Appeal (Criminal) in 2020. The Court disposed of 367 appeals in respect of 1,719 offences
there were 277 new appeals received by the Court of Appeal (Civil) in 2020. It determined 476 new appeals almost as many as in 2019
in the Supreme Court 158 applications for leave to appeal were filed in 2020 with leave granted in respect of 40 applications. The Supreme Court disposed of 65 appeals in 2020
Statistics of note for the OLCA in 2020:
830 applications were filed in the period 1 January to 31 December 2020, a 38% increase on 2019. 585 of these were electronically filed
1,005 cases dealt with in 2020. This is comprised of the 830 applications filed in 2020 and 175 cases from 2019
of the 114 cases determined; 32 reasons for determination were published, 62 reasons for determination were withheld, 13 are under consideration and 20 are to be completed
County Registrars also report to the Chief Legal Costs Adjudicator on the Register of Taxation Determinations that they also maintain. The County Registrar’s processed 372 cases during 2020: 114 settled, 190 certified, 42 struck out and 26 adjourned