Taoiseach suggests justice system is ‘slow’ and could be more efficient

Thinly veiled criticism comes as Varadkar rejects call by judge for more appointments

Leo Varadkar: “I think we need to examine court procedures and the way our courts are managed so that cases can be heard more quickly”

Leo Varadkar: “I think we need to examine court procedures and the way our courts are managed so that cases can be heard more quickly”

 

The Taoiseach has rejected a call by a prominent judge for more appointments to the bench. Instead Leo Varadkar suggested the justice system in the Republic was “slow”, and its efficiency could be improved.

He was responding to comments by High Court judge Mr Justice Kevin Cross warning that people who have sued over alleged delays in cancer diagnosis or alleged misdiagnosis may die before their cases were heard.

Mr Justice Cross called on Thursday for more judges to be appointed to the High Court to deal with a growing number of personal injuries cases, many relating to CervicalCheck, breast cancer and swine flu issues.

However, his appeal was rebuffed by the Taoiseach on Friday when speaking to reporters at the Garda college in Templemore, Co Tipperary.

Mr Varadkar said additional judges had been hired to “speed up” court cases. But it appeared to him the justice system in the Republic was slow.

“If you compare Ireland to other jurisdictions, it does seem to me that a lot of our court cases take a lot of time, much more time than would the case in other jurisdictions, so I think we need to examine that.

“I think we need to examine court procedures and the way our courts are managed so that cases can be heard more quickly. Justice delayed is justice denied. It’s not just a case of appointing more judges. I think we need to manage cases better and…improve in terms of case efficiency.”

Alternatives to court

He said The Government also now had a report from Judge Charles Meenan on alternatives to court, and this system would be set up “in the new year”.

This work may take time because primary legislation was needed, said Mr Varadkar. “We’ll put in place an alternative which will protect anonymity and ensure judges have experts they can draw on. Often these cases are down to conflicting reports from conflicting experts paid by each side.”

Under the new system judges would have access to their own experts to help determine whether negligence had occurred.

Asked about fines being imposed by the Central Bank on some banks for their role in the €1 billion tracker mortgage scandal, the Taoiseach said he would not rule out the possibility of prosecutions.

“The Government is not responsible for prosecuting people. But there have been a number of prosecutions of bankers and bank officials in the last couple of years, so I wouldn’t rule that out.”