Criminal cases in Dublin take longest to reach court

Dublin District Court had waiting times of 26 weeks, with delays also in family law cases

Dublin had the longest waiting times for criminal cases in the District Court last year and was also among the slowest for processing civil actions, Courts Service figures show.

During the year the District Court in Dublin took special measures to try to alleviate the serious level of delay in family law cases in particular.

While Dublin took about 26 weeks from receipt of a criminal summons to a scheduled date for a hearing, the quickest court in the State, in Tralee, Co Kerry, managed the same process in eight to 12 weeks.

There is an agreement with the Garda that a period of 12 to 14 weeks be allowed between the issuing of a summons and the first court date, in order to allow time for the service of the summons.


Most district courts had waiting times that chimed with this agreement, though some had longer waiting times. These included Carlow (20 to 28 weeks), Ballina (15 to 20), Kilkenny and Letterkenny (20 to 24) and Limerick (19).

Listed for hearing

For civil actions, the waiting time between receipt of an application and the date it was listed for hearing was 17 weeks in Dublin, 16 in Galway, and up to 24 weeks in Sligo. The average was about eight to 10 weeks.

For domestic violence applications and maintenance/guardianship applications, most courts listed such cases to the next scheduled sitting.

However, in Carlow, Cork, Trim and Limerick, the waiting could be as long as 10 to 12 weeks. In Dublin the average wait was six weeks, the figures show.

The Courts Service monitors waiting times in the service and adopts its plans on a rolling basis in reaction to any difficulties, a spokesman for the service said.

Legal sources said the variation between district courts in different regions had to do with a mix of factors including case types, volume, the practices of local solicitors and barristers, and the attitudes and practices of judges.

When there are perceived difficulties in some areas, a support judge may be sent in to deal with growing backlogs.

Road traffic offences

The bulk of public interactions with the courts each year are in the District Court. In 2016 there were 133,724 new civil matters and 382,325 new criminal matters in the District Court, with 60 per cent of all orders issued relating to road traffic offences. The total number of matters in the courts system was approximately 750,000.

In its 2016 annual report, the Courts Service noted that, in consultation with the president of the District Court, Judge Rosemary Horgan, the business of the Dublin District Court was reorganised to address the "serious level of delay" of family law cases there.

The net result was an increase in the number of courtrooms dedicated to District Court family law in Dublin city centre, from five to eight.

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent