Wednesday 23 October 2019

Judge causes consternation – by working too hard

Judge Mary Ellen Ring
Judge Mary Ellen Ring

Conor Gallagher

Another row over the judiciary's work rate has erupted – but this one is over a judge working too hard.

Judge Mary Ellen Ring, who was recently appointed to the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, has caused problems for civil servants, prison officers and solicitors over her lengthy sittings, which often go past 7pm. Traditionally the circuit court day is 10.30am to 4pm.

Last Wednesday, representatives of the Chief State Solicitors Office, The Courts Service and the Prison Service met with Judge Ring to make their feelings known.

According to well-placed sources, the meeting was arranged to persuade the judge to shorten the court day.

A representative of the Chief State Solicitors Office, which is responsible for prosecuting cases for the DPP, wanted the court to finish at 5pm at the latest and any remaining cases to be adjourned to another day, one source said.

However, Judge Ring instead suggested beginning the work day at 10am instead of 10.30pm.

A spokesperson for the Courts Service insisted last Wednesday's meeting was routine procedure to improve the running of the courts.

Issues arose when Judge Ring took over Court Five at the beginning of the year after her predecessor Judge Martin Nolan was transferred to the Family Courts. Court Five is by far the busiest circuit court in the country and deals with most serious offences except for murder and rape.

It is seen as the engine room of the Criminal Courts of Justice and all serious Dublin prosecutions have to appear there at some stage. During busy periods Judge Ring has up to 20 cases to impose sentence on. There are also often lengthy delays during the day when barristers are not available to deal with cases because they're in other courts.

Judge Ring is regarded as compassionate and fair, especially with young offenders. She was appointed to the bench in April 2012 and quickly found herself in the public eye after jailing her former colleague, Judge Heather Perrin, for fraud.

Before her appointment to the bench, Judge Ring was a successful senior counsel, chair of the Irish Women Lawyers' Association and a member of the Irish Association for the Study of Delinquency and the Children's Legal Centre.

Irish Independent

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