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Fitzgerald sets up court review in bid to reduce cost of civil litigation


Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

A major Government review of the civil justice system is to be carried out amid concerns over the cost of litigation and the transparency of court proceedings.

Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said a review group would be led by the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, and would be given two years to report.

Included in its remit will be identifying measures to reduce the cost of litigation, improving procedures and practices to ensure timely hearings, and encouraging alternative methods of dispute resolution.

It will also review the use of electronic methods of communications, including e-litigation and the extent to which pleadings, submissions and other court documents should be available or accessible on the internet.

Currently the vast majority of cases are paper-based and there is only very limited public access to documents filed in courts, an issue which can cause considerable difficulty in the reporting of cases.

In comparison, most courts in the US have systems which allow affidavits, motions and rulings to be accessed electronically by the public.

The current system of civil justice is largely derived from the Judicature (Ireland) Act, which dates back to 1877.

"The aim of the review is to deliver a more efficient and effective Irish legal system in regard to the area of civil justice," said Ms Fitzgerald.

She said the group would make recommendations for changes with a view to improving access to civil justice in the State, promoting early resolution of disputes, reducing the cost of litigation, creating a more responsive and proportionate system and ensuring better outcomes for court users.

The review will also include an examination of the law on discovery and look at removing obsolete, unnecessary or over-complex rules of procedure.

It will also examine ways of supporting vulnerable court users, including children, wards of court and litigants who are ineligible for civil legal aid.

Irish Independent