Some courts likely to close if Garda strike goes ahead

District Courts to bear brunt of disruption, according to legal sources

Offenders first appear at District Courts when they are accused of more serious criminal offences, which go on to be heard at the Circuit Criminal Court and the Central Criminal Court. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Offenders first appear at District Courts when they are accused of more serious criminal offences, which go on to be heard at the Circuit Criminal Court and the Central Criminal Court. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Courts in some areas are likely to close if impending industrial action by gardaí goes ahead from Friday.

District Courts around the country will bear the brunt of the disruption, legal sources say.About 30 of these courts around the country handle the bulk of criminal cases in the State.

Last year, of the more than 324,000 criminal cases resolved in the courts, almost 299,000 were at the District Court.

Sergeants, acting as court presenters, present the list of criminal cases before the court. But during strike days, officers will not be available.

Applications may be made to adjourn these cases, but solicitors for defendants could seek to have the cases struck out. It will be up to individual judges to decide what happens, should the court lists go ahead. But if court lists are cancelled for the day, the issue of strike-outs will not arise.

Offenders also first appear at District Courts when they are accused of more serious criminal offences, which go on to be heard at the Circuit Criminal Court and the Central Criminal Court.

An offender may be arrested and be taken to a Garda station for questioning, possibly overnight, before charges are brought and the person is taken to a District Court.

Released

However, if gardaí do not work, people in custody on Thursday night, who would have ordinarily been brought to court on Friday morning, may have to be released, with a file being sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

It is likely that criminal trials under way at Circuit Criminal Courts or at the Central Criminal Court will be adjourned for the day on Thursday.

Sources also say many courts have kept their lists as light as possible for Friday.

The Children’s Court in Smithfield, Dublin, which deals with under-18s crime, had only three cases listed for Friday so far, all of which related to minors who got station bail and were given a date to appear in court by gardaí.

The Criminal Courts of Justice and the Four Courts are both manned by private security firm G4S, though gardaí are also present there. Many courts around the country rely solely on gardaí for security.

In a brief statement, the Courts Service said it remained in contact with the judiciary and gardaí in relation to the implications of the proposed strike.