A marked decrease in waiting times for Supreme Court cases has been noted in the court’s latest annual report.
Wait times for the hearing of cases at Ireland’s highest judicial threshold are now 122 days, or four months, on average.
By contrast, wait times at the Supreme Court in 2014 extended to between five and seven years.
The Courts Service said that the report for 2019, the second such produced at Supreme Court level, details that a previous backlog of old and legacy cases has now been dealt with in full.
Meanwhile, there was a 56% increase to 248 — an “increase in productivity” as the court itself termed it — in the number of applications decided upon by the court across 2019.
The drop in wait times is attributable in part to revised rules and a revised practice direction introduced early in 2019, the Courts Service said, together with the introduction of an online portal for legal practitioners seeking to lodge applications expeditiously.
Notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s wish to deal with cases as quickly as possible, Chief Justice Frank Clarke said he did not think it “possible” to reduce the time limit on such appeals — from first filings to final judgement — to lower than between nine and 10 months.
In terms of Brexit and the ongoing international work of the Supreme Court, Justice Clarke said: “We are a small judiciary and do not have the numbers available to other comparable courts — even those of relatively small countries — so that the burden placed on our judges is correspondingly larger.”
The exit of Britain from the European Union has raised Ireland’s profile as a practitioner of common law within the union, with only Malta and Cyprus having similar legal systems.
Justice Clarke also remarked upon the establishment late last year after much preamble of the Judicial Council, charged with providing guidance on sentencing and the level of awards in personal injuries cases.
He said that while the new council “is very much to be welcomed”, it needs to be recognised that its “proper operation” will place “additional burdens” on the judiciary.