The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter TD, has announced that the Government on Tuesday approved the holding in the autumn of the Referendum to amend Article 34 of the Constitution to provide for the establishment of a Court of Appeal.

The need for a Court of Appeal arises mainly from the on-going significant backlog of cases before the Supreme Court and the consequent long delays in cases being dealt with by the Supreme Court. The average delay for new non-priority cases is now of the order of 4 years. Earlier this year, the Chief Justice announced her decision not to accept any new priority cases, given that there were already over 70 cases on the priority list.

Welcoming the Government Decision to hold the Referendum, Minister Shatter said "This is just the first step on the road to a Referendum of the People which will be held in the Autumn. Work will now proceed on the preparation of the necessary legislation and the Government will consult with interested parties on the detail of that legislation over the coming months. I intend to publish the proposed constitutional amendments as early as possible in order to give people time to reflect on what is proposed and to allow for a rational and considered debate. I look forward to that discussion and am hopeful that we will be able to convince the People that the proposal is worthy of their support. In all of this, the People are sovereign, it is their Constitution, and as democrats, we will respect whatever choice they make."

The Supreme Court in Ireland, unlike in other common law jurisdictions, is the Court of Final Appeal in all cases. This means that whereas in other countries the Supreme Court mainly deals with cases involving substantial points of law or issues of major public importance, in Ireland the Supreme Court is taken up with issues ranging from routine interlocutory orders to the major constitutional issues and everything in-between.

The new Court of Appeal will deal with most cases that are currently dealt with by the Supreme Court, thus reducing its workload and allowing it to focus on the development of the law. The model for the new Court of Appeal is largely drawn from the seminal Report of the Working Group on a Court of Appeal which was chaired by now Chief Justice Denham and which was published in 2009.

The intention is that after the establishment of the Court of Appeal, most appeals will be concluded at that court and only in exceptional circumstances, and subject to the Supreme Court’s own "leave to appeal" requirements, will cases proceed to be heard by the Supreme Court. This should result in the number of cases heard by the Supreme Court falling substantially.

2 May 2013



Note for Editors

Court of Appeal

The Working Group Report on a Court of Appeal was published in May 2009 and is available at$FILE/Report of the Working Group on a Court of Appeal.pdf.

The Report considered a number of options and recommended the establishment of an intermediate court between the Supreme Court and the High Court. The Intermediate Court would be the Court of Appeal and it would deal with most appeals from the High Court, as well as appeals from the Circuit Criminal Court and the Central Criminal Court.

The main features of the Court of Appeal as recommended by the Working Group are:

1. The Court of Appeal would have civil and criminal jurisdiction and would replace the Court of Criminal Appeal, for criminal cases;

2. There would be a right of appeal of all cases, including those involving constitutional issues, from the High Court to the Court of Appeal;

3. Cases could be appealed from the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court according to the Supreme Court’s own leave to appeal requirements, in relation to matters of exceptional public importance.

4. There would also be provision for the Supreme Court to hear appeals from the High Court, in exceptional circumstances, where the public interest so required, subject to its own leave to appeal requirements.

The Minister intends to consult widely on the detail of the Court of Appeal and would welcome submissions from all interested parties.