Judge will no longer tolerate ‘noise and filth’ at Tralee Court

‘Yapping and talking all morning at full belt’ must stop, says Judge James O’Connor

The poor state of  Tralee Courthouse, which dates to 1835, has been the subject of council motions as well as a Dáil question in recent years. File photograph: Google Street View

The poor state of Tralee Courthouse, which dates to 1835, has been the subject of council motions as well as a Dáil question in recent years. File photograph: Google Street View

 

A judge has hit out at the “noise and filth” of Tralee Courthouse on District Court days and has said he finds it the most awkward court in Kerry and Cork.

The early 19th century structure - built to intimidate upon steps which rise high over Ashe Street in the heart of Tralee - certainly has an imposing facade, but it is one of the few courthouses in the country not to have received an internal overhaul in the past decade.

There is no wheelchair access and office staff have had to move to rented offices because of health and safety and other issues.

The poor state of the 1835 courthouse has been the subject of council motions as well as a Dáil question in recent years.

‘Smoking and yapping’

District Court Judge James O’Connor told the first sitting of 2016 in Tralee that he will no longer tolerate the filthy and noisy conditions which the District Court room is subjected to from the large atrium on Wednesday sittings, with people hanging around “smoking and yapping” and disrupting the court.

The Circuit Court rooms, with their own internal hall, were screened from what the District Court room had to put up with, Judge O’Connor said,

Noise from the large hall was “disrupting” the District Court all last year, he added.

“The Tralee Court is the most awkward court I go to,” said Judge O’Connor, who presides over District 17, which includes the seven Kerry courthouses.

He also regularly appears for special sittings in Cork.

Fag butts, coffee cups

“Something will have to be done to police the hall. The place is filthy... fag butts and coffee cups everywhere,” he continued.

“Gardaí must co-operate,” the judge said, adding there was no need for extra gardaí on the issue, but that that gardaí waiting in court to prosecute summonses could go out and keep order.

Judge O’Connor said he wanted the steps of the courthouse cleared also.

People were hanging around for whole days, as the Tralee court with its “huge lists” often sat until 7pm.

There was “yapping and talking all morning at full belt”, the judge said.

“Get them off the steps and out of the precincts of the court completely,” the judge told gardaí, in what he said were announcements he wished to make for 2016.

‘Looks bad’

Judge O’Connor also elaborated on his reasons outlined in Killarney on Tuesday for a ban on cash payments to the court poor box during court sessions.

The judge said counting out cash in court “looks bad”, and there were related security issues.

Courts staff have no protection and large amounts of cash are being transported,” Judge O’Connor said.

He told solicitors that bank drafts, credit union drafts, postal orders “or solicitor’s cheques” could be accepted.

Tralee was not among the seven courthouses to be rebuilt or refurbished in announcements in 2015 and there were no immediate plans for such refurbishment, the courts service said in November when the issue was raised at council level.

It is now one of very few courthouses nationally not to have been upgraded in recent years.

The spokesman said the courthouse was originally built to intimidate, but that modern courthouses were built to accommodate.