Report of the Judicial Planning Working Group provides much needed focus on resourcing

24 February 2023

Sara Phelan SC, Chair, Council of the Bar of Ireland

Report provides pathway to efficiencies; however a number of issues require further detail

The Bar of Ireland has welcomed the publication of the Report of the Judicial Planning Working Group today, together with OECD Research.

Sara Phelan SC, Chair of the Council of The Bar of Ireland said:

“The proposed appointment of additional judges across almost all jurisdictions announced by Government today is very welcome, as is the recommendation for increased Master and Registrar appointments. The effectiveness of that expansion to meet future demand, will be defined by the resourcing around them.

“The OECD Report makes the recommendation of an increase of judicial appointments by 26.2% to reflect new areas of work as well as to manage the natural increased demand with the growth of our population. The announcement of Phase 1 and Phase 2 appointments go an important way towards that recommendation.

“There is much to commend in the report in respect of judicial workforce planning, as well as advancing a number of Courts Service strategic supports. On our initial reading a number of issues will need to be carefully considered in order to evaluate their impact on access to justice and how our system continues to have the trust of the public.  

  1. Firstly, changes or, suggested rationalisation of Circuit or District Court Areas, particularly in the area of family and childcare,  need to be viewed from a range of perspectives, and we welcome the opportunity to contribute to that review.
  1. Secondly, while the focus on metrics, data and use of technology in terms Courts Service performance is welcome, the importance of publicly accessible, in-person judicial services should not be underestimated.  While the focus on efficiencies is important to the  administration of justice, they should not arise at the cost of access to a vital public service.
  1. Thirdly, the reforms underway through the implementation of the Kelly Report on the Review of the Administration of Civil Justice, Justice Plan 2022 as well as the important body of work in respect of a new Family Law System and the Review of the Civil Legal Aid System mean that dialogue between those groups, and practitioners operating at the coal face, is all the more important.

“Publication  of the Report and the announcement of additional judicial resourcing coincide with the Chief Justice’s Access to Justice Conference, the theme of which is ‘Civil Legal Aid Reform’.  It is noteworthy that the issue of legal aid, and the efficient operation the administration of justice are inextricably linked. We look forward to close coordination between that Review and the implementation of this report”

The Council of The Bar of Ireland will consider the Report of the Judicial Planning Working Group, together with the OECD Report on Modernising Staffing and Court Management Practices in Ireland, in detail in the weeks ahead.

The Bar of Ireland’s submission to the Working Group on Judicial Planning can be read below.