independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

High Court 'at breaking point' due to lack of judges

High Court president, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns

High Court lists are "at breaking point" because of a shortage of judges, the President of the High Court has warned.

Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns said until a number of new judicial appointments are made, he did not have judges available to hear some of the cases in the lists.

"All our lists are at breaking point in terms of demands made on judges," he said.

Until new appointments are made, the courts "will endeavour to get through the lists" with the available resources, he told lawyers.

Five cases listed for hearing yesterday had to be put back up until judges became available.

There have been between two and three vacancies in the High Court for most of the last year.

There were two retirements early last year, a sudden death in August of Judge Kevin Feeney, the promotion of two senior judges to the Supreme Court bench and a further three retirements in the last month or so.

New appointments in that time had barely kept pace with the losses and another judge, Michael Hanna, became seriously ill over Christmas and could be out for some time.

It is also understood that there will be at least two more retirements in the coming months, although sources say it could be as many as four.

The Government must also find 10 new judges for the new Court of Civil Appeal approved in last October's referendum to amend the Constitution.

There are also fears that senior judges may opt to retire early ahead of a pensions grace period, which expires on August 31 next.

IMPOSED

From January 1 last, judges and other senior civil and public servants have been subject to a 'super tax' of up to 70pc imposed on any portion of their pensions above €115,000 per annum.

A 'grace period' has been introduced for public servants retiring on or before August 31 next.

This means that public servants and judges who retire before that date will have their pensions and lump sums based on their salaries before cuts were imposed following the Haddington Road Agreement, thereby avoiding the 'super tax'.

Irish Independent

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