Ireland near bottom of international table for investment in justice, Clarke says

Minorities, marginalised groups run a real risk of having less effective access to justice

Ireland is near the bottom of the international league table on the amount of money invested in the justice system, the Chief Justice Frank Clarke has said. Photograph: Alan Betson

Ireland is near the bottom of the international league table on the amount of money invested in the justice system, the Chief Justice Frank Clarke has said. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Ireland is near the bottom of the international league table on the amount of money invested in the justice system, the Chief Justice Frank Clarke has said.

While taxpayers contribute much less for courts services, litigants pay far more than in other countries, he said.

Mr Justice Clarke was addressing the opening of the two day Access to Justice conference, which began on Friday.

“There are undoubtedly areas where the problems of access to justice can be particularly acute,” he said.

“Minorities, marginalised groups or the vulnerable obviously run a real risk of having less effective access to justice than others. Particular areas of the law also can throw up special challenges.”

Mr Justice Clarke, who is due to retire next month, acknowledged continuing demands on public resources but said an analysis of what we spend on our justice system left us “at or near the bottom”, compared with other European Union member states and further afield where legal systems were similar.

“The Irish taxpayer spends significantly less on our justice system compared with most continental countries, while the Irish litigant spends more,” he said.

“There is a strong case that some of the money that might have to be spent had Ireland a judge-led civil law system, but which is saved by the taxpayer by our common law system, might be deployed to help those who could not reasonably be expected to adequately present their case without legal assistance and who struggle to afford it.”

The Chief Justice welcomed the Government commitment to change in the courts, saying civil procedural reforms, the funding for the Courts Service’s modernisation programme, a review of civil legal aid and the establishment of a working group considering judicial numbers are “all valuable contributions”.

With the conference being addressed by Minister for Justice Heather Humphries, Mr Justice Clarke noted such necessary changes cannot be achieved without political backing.