Minister McEntee receives Cabinet approval to bring forward emergency legislation on the legal basis for Garda Court Presenters
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The Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has today received government approval to bring forward emergency legislation to provide for a continued legal basis for Garda Court Presenters in the District Court.
Court Presenters are members of An Garda Síochána who specialise in court work in the District Court, prosecuting cases on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions. They deal with important procedural matters including evidence of arrest, charge and caution in first appearances in court, remands, bail applications and presenting a summary of evidence in guilty pleas.
The legislation will address a recent High Court ruling on the use of Court Presenters, for which a stay has been granted until the final orders are made on 16 June. The legislation will clearly establish a right for any member of An Garda Síochána to conduct a prosecution, whether or not that member initiated the prosecution.
Minister McEntee said:
"The system of Garda court presenters is a well-established one, enabling more efficient use of police resources by reducing the need for individual Gardaí to attend court to prosecute every criminal offence they detect.
"If remedial legislation is not put in place to allow for the continued use of Court Presenters, it is expected there would be significant disruption to the operation of the District Courts throughout the country and significant costs involved in putting in place alternative arrangements.
"I hope that the Bill can pass through all stages in the Oireachtas by 16 June."
The issue needs to be addressed by legislative amendment as a matter of urgency to avoid serious disruption to the District Courts throughout the country and the costs of putting in place alternative arrangements, which would increase for each day the legislation is not enacted following the taking effect of the judgment.
The Minister will publish the Bill as soon as possible.
Owing to the urgency of the matter, and the serious operational and cost implications that will arise if the judgment becomes operative, the Minister considers it necessary to seek a waiver of pre-legislative scrutiny from the Justice Committee and to also seek a motion for early signature of the Bill by the President following the passing of the Bill by the Houses of the Oireachtas.
The purpose of the proposed Bill is to clearly establish a right for any member of An Garda Síochána to conduct a prosecution, whether or not that member initiated the prosecution, restoring the system of court presenters which existed prior to this judgment.
A short three section Bill is proposed which amends the Garda Síochána Act 2005 to:
The amendment will come into effect on enactment and applies to prosecutions currently in progress as well as future prosecutions.
Following a recommendation for a change to the public prosecution system made by the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, a High Level Review Group on the Role of An Garda Síochána in the Public Prosecution System was established in September 2020 to conduct an evaluation and to recommend a preferred option for consideration by Government. The Group is to report to Government via the Department of the Taoiseach, to take account of the independence of the DPP.
The Group is chaired by former Secretary General to the government, Mr Dermot McCarthy, and also comprises representatives of stakeholders, including relevant government departments, the Judiciary, An Garda Síochána, the Office of the DPP, the State Solicitors’ Association, the NGO sector, academics and legal practitioners.
The Group’s work will be grounded in empirical analysis, applying the experience and expertise of its members, to prepare recommendations for the government.
The Group submitted an interim report on its work to Minister McEntee in accordance with its terms of reference in Q1 2021. While not strictly required under their terms of reference, a second interim report in respect of the Group’s activity during 2021 was submitted late last year.
The Group commissioned bespoke research from academics with relevant expertise, who provided a report in September 2021 examining issues including:
The work of the Group and their recommendations are to be the subject of the Group’s final report to Government in accordance with the Group’s terms of reference.