Thursday, July 28, 2022

Cate McCurry, PA

The number of trials for murder and serious sexual offences held in Irish courts increased by 57 per cent last year, figures show.

The Central Criminal Court held trials in relation to 25 murder and attempted murder cases, and 423 trials in relation to rape and attempted rape charges, according to the 2021 annual report of the Courts Service.

This is an increase from 20 murder and attempted murder cases and 265 trials in relation to rape and attempted rape charges in 2020.

It is a 57 per cent increase in the numbers of murder and serious sexual offence trials held.

The Central Criminal Court held trials in relation to 25 murder and attempted murder cases (Julien Behal/PA)

The number of people jailed for more than 10 years for rape and attempted rape offences was 110 last year, while 98 defendants were sentenced to five to 10 years in prison, 41 were jailed for two to five years while two people were handed sentences of up to two years.

The report also shows that some of the courts are dealing with more serious criminal cases than previous years.

The Special Criminal Court received cases involving 145 offences and 23 defendants last year, up from 116 offences and 31 defendants in 2020, and 70 offences involving 24 defendants in 2019.

The Circuit Criminal Courts received 18,676 new serious cases last year, up from 18,275 in 2020, and 16,487 in 2019.

This is up from 13,974 such cases in 2016 – an increase in serious crime of 33 per cent over six years.

Drugs cases at District Court level were down by 9 per cent at 35,220, from 38,635 cases in 2020.

Drugs Illustration
There has been an increase in drugs cases over the past six years of 51 per cent, up from 23,216 in 2016 (Paul Faith/PA)

But there has been an increase in drugs cases over the past six years of 51 per cent, up from 23,216 in 2016.

At Circuit Court levels new personal injury actions were down by 12 per cent, whereas property possession cases were up 75 per cent from 272 to 477.

Likewise, there was a reduction of a quarter in new defamation cases at Circuit level.

The number of new divorce applications jumped by 11 per cent in the Circuit Court last year.

There was also a serious rise in the number of child abduction cases, which jumped by 52 per cent, from 21 to 32 cases last year.

The number of new supervision and care orders sought increased to 14,194, up from 13,203, an increase of 7.5 per cent.

 

The number of orders made increased to 14,038, up from 9,353 in 2021, an increase of 50 per cent.

The report also shows the effect of the economic changes brought about by Covid in the area of licensing.

Applications were down 18 per cent across the District and Circuit Courts, following on from a 70 per cent decrease in 2020.

The Courts Service has a budget of €154 million, with 82.5 per cent from the Exchequer and 17.5 per cent raised through fees.

The net cost to the state of running the courts across the country is €127 million.

The Courts Service collected €8 million in fines last year, and administered €1.7 million in poor box payments in 2020.

Chief Justice Donal O’Donnell said that many matters have been dealt with through the expanded use of remote hearings and video links between courts and prisons, and the use of non-courts service venues, such as Croke Park for trial hearings.

“Adaptation and innovation are two words which might best describe our efforts in 2021, as we dealt with the ongoing effects of a worldwide pandemic, and the impact it had on people’s right of access to justice, and on the administration of justice more generally,” Justice O’Donnell said.

“Each year brings with it inevitable changes to certain areas and levels of work, and the Courts Service has to be conscious to try to channel resources and court space appropriately.”

Angela Denning, the chief executive of the Courts Service, said the courts have been more flexible in using the modernisation programme to facilitate court business.

She said the number of video links between prisons and courts increased by almost 60 per cent  last year to 20,634, from 13,000 in 2021, and 443 per cent on the 3,798 in 2019.

She said that expanding the video technology to 104 courtrooms across the estate last year facilitated 38,176 video calls in total.

Ms Denning claimed that video links helped keep Covid infections among prisoners, staff and court users out of court venues, resulting in zero transmission of the virus recorded in courtrooms.

She also said that under the modernisation programme, the Courts Service plans to expand video technology to 160 courtrooms by 2026.

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