Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Seanad Éireann Debate

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An Bille um an Tríú Leasú is Tríocha ar an mBunreacht (Cúirt Achomhairc) 2013: An Dara Céim

Thirty-third Amendment of the Constitution (Court of Appeal) Bill 2013: Second Stage

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke I welcome the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Alan Shatter, back to the House. We are on Second Stage of the Thirty-third Amendment of the Constitution (Court of Appeal) Bill 2013. The motion pursuant to section 23 of the Referendum Act 1994, prescribing a statement for the information of voters to be included in the polling card, will be debated in conjunction with Second Stage of the Bill and moved when the debate on the Bill is concluded.

  Tairgeadh an cheist: "Go léifear an Bille an Dara hUair anois."

  Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I am pleased to present the Thirty-third Amendment of the Constitution (Court of Appeal) Bill 2013 to the House. The Bill brings us a further step along the road towards the establishment of a court of appeal which is a commitment in the programme for Government.

  The case for the establishment of a court of appeal has been well rehearsed. The previous Government established a working group on a court of appeal in 2006. The group which published its report in August 2009 was chaired by the current Chief Justice and comprised members of the Judiciary, representatives of the Bar Council and the Law Society and senior officials from the Attorney General's office, the Department of the Taoiseach and my Department. The report includes a comprehensive analysis of the then position in the Supreme Court, a review of the position in other common law countries and sets out a path, including proposed constitutional change, that has garnered the support of most parties interested in the reform of the courts system.

  I have mentioned that the report reviews the then position in the Supreme Court. When it was written, the waiting time for cases before that court was two and a half years. In the intervening years that delay has lengthened to over four years, meaning that someone lodging an appeal with the Supreme Court today could not expect to have his or her case decided before 2017. Delay is truly the enemy of justice or, as the old maxim goes, "Justice delayed is justice denied". The former chief justice of the United States of America, William E. Burger, put it well when he spoke about inefficiency and delay draining "even a just judgment of its value". Citizens have a right, recognised in Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, to a fair and speedy trial. Ireland has already had to pay compensation to individuals who have successfully taken cases to the European Court of Human Rights in relation to delay.

  It is not just our reputation from the point of view of human rights and the rule of law that is in the dock. Today's international business world works best where the law is clear, the Judiciary is independent and those who find themselves either asserting their rights or defending their actions before the courts can expect to know the final outcome without undue delay. All things being equal, international investors will favour a country with an efficient and effective legal system over one without such a system. To put it simply, I also believe citizens of the State who feel the need to engage in litigation should know that as regards litigation which is conducted in the High Court, even if there is an appeal, that the outstanding issues in dispute can be resolved within a reasonable period of time.

  It is worth going back to see how Ireland has reached the current pass in relation to delay in the Supreme Court. When the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) Act was passed in 1961, it provided for four ordinary members of the Supreme Court and five ordinary members of the High Court, a more or less equal allocation of resources. There are now 36 High Court judges, a sixfold increase, whereas the number of Supreme Court judges has only doubled from four to eight ordinary judges. As Members of the House may know, the Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill has now completed its passage in both Houses. It allows for the appointment of two additional judges to the Supreme Court on being signed by the President. Even at that, there will not be an adequate number of judges in the Supreme Court to ensure appeals are addressed within a reasonable period, if all appeals from the High Court will continue to have to be dealt with at Supreme Court level in the civil law area.

  During the years the volume of litigation has increased dramatically, meaning that there are more cases to hear. However, as important to the growth in the backlog of cases, if not more important, is the fact that litigation has become infinitely more complex.


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