Outstanding warrants reveal ‘dysfunctional’ justice system

There are more than 110,000 outstanding warrants to bring people to court, to prison or to pay fines — prompting claims the criminal justice system was in a "dysfunctional state".

Fianna Fáil said victims of crime would have a “sick feeling” in their stomach at the revelations, given in the Dáil yesterday.

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Niall Collins said his party had requested the information from Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald for almost two months, but had been told each time that the figures were not available.

He said they were only able to secure the data by raising it as a priority matter during Justice Question time. “Figures showing that there are over 113,000 warrants outstanding is a huge blow for people who rely on our criminal justice system for the fair implementation of the rule of law and for victims who must view these figures with a sick feeling in their stomach,” Mr Collins said.

“The fact that thousands of bench warrants remain outstanding is proof the criminal justice system is in a dysfunctional state.”

He added: “How are people to take our justice system seriously if the justice system cannot even implement the orders of our courts?”

The Garda Inspectorate report, published last week, showed there were 122,336 warrants on hand in January 2014. This indicates there had been an 8% fall since then.

The January 2014 figure included 88,618 penal warrants issued by the courts for failure to pay fines, 31,166 bench warrants issued for failure to attend a court hearing and 2,552 committal warrants issued to commit a person to prison after conviction.

The inspectorate report said gardaí should not be dealing with penal warrants — accounting for 72% of all warrants — which are treated in other police jurisdictions as administrative matters.

The inspectorate also called for other reforms, including enforcement and supervision of warrants and greater staffing of warrant units.


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