I had the pleasure of attending the Law Society Conference in Killarney last weekend where the keynote speech was given by the Minister, Mr. Alan Shatter, TD. He touched on a wide range of issues, a speech which went on considerably longer than was anticipated but all of his comments were fascinating to the delegates. In particular, he talked about a Court of Appeal and announced that the Government has now decided to proceed in the Autumn with the necessary Referendum to establish a Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court is currently overrun with work, and the waiting list is over 4 years from the date of an Appeal being listed to the matter coming on for hearing.
The intention is that the Supreme Court will follow the example set by the US Supreme Court where not every case proceeds to the Supreme Court. It can focus on a discreet number of appeals and the remainder will be dealt with by a slightly lower Court of Appeal. The model is drawn from the excellent report published in 2009 of the Working Group on a Court of Appeal which was chaired by the now Chief Justice, Ms. Susan Denham.
The current proposals are that there would be a single Court of Appeal which will replace the existing Court of Criminal Appeal. There will be a right of appeal of all cases from the High Court to the Court of Appeal and matters can only proceed beyond the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court according to the Court’s leave to appeal requirements, in relation to matters of exceptional public importance or where deemed necessary in the interests of Justice. There will also be provision for the Supreme Court to hear appeals directly from the High Court in exceptional circumstances, subject to its own requirements.
The plan as delivered by the Minister certainly appears to make sense, and we will await with interest the actual manifestation of the plan.