22 April 2016
Signing the rules of court for the second Special Criminal Court, the Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald TD today confirmed that all the necessary practical and procedural work to enable the second Special Criminal Court to commence hearing cases has been completed including courtroom accommodation, ICT system changes, the appointment of court registrars and the drafting of the necessary rules of court.
Commenting today, the Minister said "I am pleased that signing the rules of court for the two Special Criminal Courts is the final step necessary to enable the Court to start dealing with the backlog of cases and in time this will lead to a reduction in waiting times for trials. This underlines the Government’s continued focus to tackle serious crime affecting the security of the State and ensure that those involved in such crimes are brought swiftly to justice”.
A second Special Criminal Court was established by Government Order on 14 December 2004 and it was brought into existence on 28 October 2015 with the appointment of seven serving judges to its bench, comprising 3 High Court, 2 Circuit Court and 2 District Court judges.
The second Special Criminal Court will be operational from Monday 25 April 2016 and work will begin immediately to tackle the current backlog of cases. At present, the next available trial date in the Special Criminal Court is April / May 2018, representing a waiting time of 24-25 months.
Note for Editors:
Yesterday, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald, TD, concurred in making rules of court for the second Special Criminal Court and also concurred in making revised rules of court for the existing Special Criminal Court. The rules govern the procedures and practices that will apply in each Special Criminal Court and will come into effect on Monday 25 April 2016. The Special Criminal Courts will be known as Special Criminal Court No 1 and Special Criminal Court No. 2.
Article 38 3. (1) of the Constitution allows for the establishment of special courts in accordance with the law in cases where it is considered that the ordinary courts are inadequate to secure the effective administration of justice.
Section 38 of the Offences against the State Act 1939 provides for the establishment of Special Criminal Courts. Section 38 of the 1939 Act also provides that the Government may, whenever they consider it necessary or desirable to do so, establish additional Special Criminal Courts as they think fit.
The original Special Criminal Court was established in 1972 under Section 38 (1) of the Offences Against the State Act 1939 and has 13 members (comprising 5 judges of the High Court, 3 judges of the Circuit Court and 5 judges of the District Court).The Special Criminal Court No. 2 comprises 7 judges (3 High Court, 2 Circuit Court and 2 District Court).
Legislative changes were brought forward in the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005 to facilitate the transfer of cases from one Special Criminal Court to another Special Criminal Court.
On 13 April 2016, the Government appointed five Court Registrars to the existing Special Criminal Court and to the second Special Criminal Court.
Both Courts will sit within the Criminal Courts of Justice.