Thursday 22 February 2018

Caseload differences spark call for extra judge

Barry Duggan

HUGE discrepancies between the caseloads of district court judges outside of Dublin have emerged in new figures obtained by the Irish Independent.

For instance, the sitting district court judge in Limerick hears almost three times as many cases as his peers in Cork.

The revelation last night sparked calls for a second full-time judge to be appointed to Limerick.

Finance Minister and local poll topper Michael Noonan last night said he would address the issue with Justice Minister Alan Shatter.

A total of 42,541 cases were processed through Limerick District Court last year while 47,507 went through Cork.

But while Limerick has one sitting district court judge -- Tom O'Donnell, who was recently appointed to the Circuit Court -- Cork has three judges.

Judge O'Donnell oversaw all but a small percentage of the cases coming through the district court offices each year since 1999.

In Cork, Judges Con O'Leary, Leo Malone and David Riordan preside over the vast majority of district court cases.

A total of 46,400 cases went through Limerick District Court in 2009, while 48,841 were dealt with in Cork. Since 2008 to the end of last year, 130,594 cases have gone through Limerick district courts while 152,148 have been processed in Cork.

Limerick also has just 17 full-time staff in the district court offices compared with 28 in Cork.

"Limerick city has always been a very busy district court area and these figures bear out the truth of that," said Limerick Solicitors' Bar Association president Donal Creaton.

"Court sittings go on late at night there and are only concluded thanks to the good work of everyone involved.

"Tom O'Donnell has done a Trojan effort in the courts with the vast amount of cases that come before him, but there is a massive workload."

The outgoing judge himself agreed there was a need for a second district court judge in the city.

"There is enough work for two permanent district court judges in Limerick. I think that is recognised but there are difficulties in the appointing of a second permanent judge as such," Judge O'Donnell said.

Irish Independent

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