The Programme for a Partnership Government contains a commitment to commission an annual study on court efficiency and sitting times as outlined by the Deputy and my Department has examined options to develop the most effective approach to implementing this commitment.
Ireland contributes annually to the European Commission EU Justice Scoreboard report which provides comparable data on the independence, quality, and efficiency of national justice systems. Ireland also contributes to the Council of Europe, European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) report which compares data on justice systems and court efficiencies from 47 countries. Both reports are available online at www.ec.europa.eu and www.coe.int respectively. These reports assist in providing ongoing international benchmarking which can be used as reference points when undertaking analysis of Ireland’s justice system.
It should be noted, however, that when assessing international comparisons of judicial systems we must be mindful of anomalies that can arise when comparing data and comparisons that are not necessarily appropriate due to differing systems reflecting different geographical, economic and legal systems.
In March 2017, it was announced that a Group, to be chaired by the President of the High Court, Mr. Justice Peter Kelly, would be established to review and reform the administration of civil justice in the State. It is intended that the Programme for Government commitment regarding a study on court efficiency and waiting times will be incorporated into the review of the administration of civil justice.
The Group is to report to the Minister for Justice and Equality and will make recommendations for changes with a view to improving access to civil justice in the State.
The Group is comprised of representatives from each jurisdiction of the judiciary, the Courts Service, the Office of the Attorney General, the Office of the Chief State Solicitor, the Law Society, the Bar Council, the Department of An Taoiseach, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Department of Justice and Equality.
The Review of the Administration of Civil Justice held its first meeting in November 2017 and has met regularly since then. The Review Group issued an open call for submissions, with a deadline of 30 June 2018, on the following broad topical areas in an overall context of improving access to justice and reducing costs of litigation:
(a) Improving procedures and practices and removal of obsolete, unnecessary or over-complex rules of procedure;
(b) Reviewing the law of discovery;
(c) Encouraging alternative methods of dispute resolution;
(d) Reviewing the use of electronic methods of communications including e-litigation and possibilities for making court documents (including submissions and pleadings) available or accessible on the internet;
(e) Achieving more effective outcomes for court users, particularly vulnerable court users.
The Review Group is currently considering the submissions received and it is anticipated that the Review Group will submit their report to me in 2019.