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Question

415. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will provide an update on the progress of the new Court of Appeal in reducing the high level of appeals waiting to be heard in the Supreme Court; if she is satisfied with such progress; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13365/15]

Answer

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): As the Deputy will be aware, the Courts Service is responsible for the management and administration of the Courts. The scheduling of court cases and the allocation of court business is a matter for the Presidents of the courts and the presiding judge who are under the Constitution independent in the exercise of their judicial functions.
The Judges of the Court of Appeal have developed new procedures for dealing with the caseload of the court which are designed to ensure that cases are managed from the date of the appeal. In order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has informed me that the Court of Appeal sits every day in the Criminal Courts of Justice to hear criminal appeals with two courts sitting on Monday of each week. In relation to criminal appeals, upon lodgement of the necessary written submissions by an appellant a hearing date can now be scheduled within 3 - 4 months. In relation to the civil business of the court, the Supreme Court transferred a caseload of 1,345 civil matters to the Court of Appeal, including 258 cases that were already certified as ready for hearing. A further 275 new cases have been lodged. Newly lodged cases are being listed on an ongoing basis within 3-4 months of the date of lodgment and dates have been allocated in respect of over 150 of the certified appeals transferred to the court. Additional sittings are to be held before the end of July 2015 to allocate dates for the remaining certified cases transferred to the court. Any party to a transferred appeal may apply to the court for a hearing date pursuant to the terms of a Practice Direction put in place by the court for such purpose.
I am also informed that the Supreme Court has made significant progress in dealing with its backlog and, in particular in the last eighteen months, has been engaged in a proactive review and management of its total caseload under the direction of the Chief Justice. In 2014 the Court disposed of a total of 794 appeals which represents a very sizeable increase on previous years. Subsequent to the establishment of the Court of Appeal in October last year the Supreme Court transferred 1,345 appeals to that Court. The Supreme Court retained 827 appeals for determination and it also dealt with a further 18 applications under the provisions of Article 64 of the Constitution. The Supreme Court currently retains a caseload of 712 appeals for determination. The Court continues in this transitional phase to actively manage its legacy caseload and, in addition, applications under its new Constitutional jurisdiction. I am informed that the Court hopes to dispose of the remaining legacy caseload as quickly as is possible in the circumstances subject to the level of new jurisdiction applications which it receives in the medium term.