Written Answers. - Court Sittings.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

19 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is intended to implement the commitment given in An Agreed Programme for Government to introduce night courts and weekend courts in areas of greatest need; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17120/03]

Officials in my Department, together with representatives from the Garda Síochána and the Courts Service, have been actively examining this proposal and I am awaiting the outcome of their deliberations before forming a definitive view on the matter. I am aware, however, that similar proposals were piloted in a neighbouring jurisdiction with very mixed results. I also wish to consider this matter in the context of the overall measures which might be taken to address the problems of late night public order offences and in light of more recent research and analysis such as that contained in the recently published report of the National Crime Council into public order offences in Ireland.

I am considering the use of fixed penalties procedure coupled with a formal caution in relation to lesser public order offences. If that procedure leads to significant reductions in court hearings, it may become a relevant consideration in assessing the usefulness or effectiveness of night courts.