Irish Court of Appeal drive gains momentum

The Irish government has taken the first steps towards creating an appeal court to take on cases from the overworked Supreme Court.

The government has proposed that the new court should be added, with the court system working on a similar basis to England’s.

Most appeals from the High Court would be heard by the new court, leaving the Supreme Court to focus on constitutional issues.

The Supreme Court currently has a waiting list of up to two years for appeals, with an average of 450 new cases being added to its workload each year – four and a half times higher than the House of Lords.

A committee chaired by Mrs Justice Susan Denham has been set up to consider whether there is a need for a general Court of Appeal.

Denham J, who has a track record of steering major changes in the court system, has previously said she would like to see the creation of a new court to hear civil and criminal appeals from the High Court. The eight-strong working party will make recommendations on how court procedures can be made more efficient and whether the change would require an amendment to the constitution.

Law Society of Ireland director general Ken Murphy, who is on the committee, said the level of delay caused by the increasing volume of cases was unacceptable and that the introduction of a new court would alleviate this pressure.

He added: “While substantial work needs to be done to flesh out the case for a court of appeal, and on the detail of how such a court would operate in Ireland, anything that would reduce delay in the court system must be welcomed by lawyers and litigants alike.”

Denham J in her initial proposal said a permanent Irish Court of Appeal would benefit litigants.

“It would also benefit the state, as it would make the court system more efficient and effective,” said Denham J. “It would also provide an infrastructure which would support the development of a consistent jurisprudence at appellate level.”