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Highest courts to hold extra sittings in effort to tackle caseload logjam

MORE of the country's highest courts are to hold extra sittings later this year in an attempt to tackle "significant delays" and to help break a logjam of backed-up cases.

For the first time, the Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeal will hold sittings through September.

Announcing the move, the Courts Service said that "owing to the exceptional circumstances of long delays", Chief Justice Susan Denham had organised the September sittings in both courts in conjunction with the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns.

A similar announcement was made earlier this year when the High Court said it would hold additional sittings in September in an effort to deal with a burgeoning workload.

The latest move comes after Justice Minister Alan Shatter announced that the number of Supreme Court judges would be increased from eight to 10 in order to tackle the "lengthy waiting times" in the court and at the Court of Criminal Appeal.

At the moment, non-priority cases can take more than four years to come before the Supreme Court, while waiting times in the Court of Criminal Appeal are over 15 months.

Last year, the Supreme Court received 600 new appeals.

Earlier this year, Mrs Justice Denham warned that the Supreme Court was being forced to turn away cases because of the soaring number of appeals. She also said no new priority cases would be accepted, given that there were already more than 70 cases on the priority list.

Mrs Justice Denham described the move to hold more sittings as a "proactive measure" by judges to tackle "significant delays".

Welcoming the move, Mr Shatter said the lengthy waiting periods being experienced by people awaiting appeals before the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal had contributed to the Government's recent decisions to appoint additional Supreme Court judges and propose a constitutional amendment to provide for a permanent Court of Appeal.

The Government is planning to hold the referendum in the autumn to amend the Constitution to create the new Court of Appeal.

Irish Independent