The Courts Service annual report has revealed a 10% increase in domestic violence applications last year and a 30% rise in interim barring orders granted.
The report also documents levels of sentencing handed down in cases and found that 63% of rape convictions result in a sentence of more than 10 years.
At this morning's launch of the 2019 annual report, the Chief Justice Frank Clarke said the Courts Service has had to fit five years of modernisation into five months. The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic has drastically altered how the courts have carried out its duties in recent months, leading the Chief Justice to declare: "2019 seems like a different time and will be used as a benchmark for how courts were before the pandemic."
In total, the Courts Service dealt with 670,000 matters in 2019, but the Chief Justice said the modernisation programme had to be catapulted forward in response to the Covid-19 crisis.
“I know that there are some additional legislative measures approved by the cabinet which will help us – amongst many things - expand the use of video conferencing and begin the use of filing electronically," he said at the launch of the report today.
He said more plans for increased modernisation, including a report of the Civil Justice Review Committee, due in September, would help the courts to better deal with the matters that come before it, and he welcomed additional funding that has been secured for a family court structure on Dublin's Hammond Lane as well as efforts to increase digitalisation.
Last year, 445,000 criminal and 233,000 civil matters were presented to the courts. According to the annual report:
- 226,000 road traffic offences were dealt with, as well as 33,000 drugs matters, 3,600 sexual offences, 37,500 larceny/robbery/ fraud matters, and 46,000 public order/assaults;
- In total, the district court received more than 406,000 new offences last year, involving 241,000 people;
- 18,500 more serious offences were sent to the circuit, central and special criminal courts;
- 154 sentences were given in rape cases of which 36% (55) were between five and 10 years and 63% (97) were over 10 years. No sentence was under two years;
- There was a 10% overall increase in domestic violence applications (20,500), with a 30% increase in interim barring order applications (1,643);
- There as a fall of 22% in the number of applications for child protection or supervision orders, but courts are finalising or resolving 38% more childcare applications than in 2016;
- 4,073 new divorce applications were received, more than half lodged by women;
- €2bn in court funds were managed on behalf of minors and wards of court in 2019;
- the Courts Service administered €1.7mn in poor box payments in 2019.
According to the annual report, there was a slight decrease in personal injuries claims last year, but a 75% increase in the value of medical negligence awards, attributed to the number of major catastrophic injury cases being dealt with in 2019.
There was also a 37% decrease in possession orders made and a 28% decrease in new possession cases lodged.