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Question

76. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to increase the number of justices to alleviate the lengthy delays in the High Court between a criminal case being ready for trial and the first available trial date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21287/19]

Answer

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As the Deputy will be aware, under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service which is independent in exercising its functions. Furthermore, the scheduling of court cases and the allocation of court business is a matter for the Presidents of the Courts and the presiding judges who are, under the constitution, independent in the exercise of their judicial functions.
However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has advised that the President of the High Court keeps waiting times in the Central Criminal Court under ongoing review. The Courts Service works with the President and the judiciary to improve waiting times and, where specific issues are identified, resources are targeted at areas of greatest need. I understand that the President of the High Court has been assigning an additional High Court Judge to the Central Criminal Court, where possible, bringing the number of judges assigned to the Central Criminal Court to 6.
The Courts Service has further advised that waiting times for trials in the Central Criminal Court at present are at 12 months, which is in line with recent years.
Central Criminal Court

Year Waiting Times
2019 12 months
2018 11 months
2017 12 months
2016 13 months
2015 13-14 months

The Courts Service has informed me that the 6 th Central Criminal Court has been sitting in venues in Munster (mainly Cork) since October 2018 and this will continue for the foreseeable future. Trials have also been scheduled for Limerick in July, October, and December 2019. This elicits significant savings for An Garda Síochána and for the Irish Prison Service, as well as making matters easier for victims, witnesses and their families.
The Deputy will also be aware that judicial appointments are made by the President acting on the advice of the Government in accordance with articles 13.9 and 35.1 of the Constitution.
There is currently provision in legislation, most recently changed by Section 1 of the Courts Act, 2015, for 1 President of the High Court and 39 Ordinary Judges of the High Court. The Government endeavours to ensure that judicial vacancies across the courts are filled in a timely manner. Currently, there are no such vacancies in the High Court.