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New order in court as €140m legal 'Pantheon' opens doors

THE new €140m criminal courts complex, the largest State building to be constructed since the James Gandon-designed Four Courts in 1796, opens for business tomorrow.

The Criminal Courts of Justice (CCJ) complex, on Parkgate Street near the entrance to Dublin's Phoenix Park, has already been dubbed 'The Pantheon' because its great hall is four times the size of the Four Courts' central Round Hall.

The state-of-the-art building will house the Court of Criminal Appeal, the Special Criminal Court, the Central Criminal Court as well as Circuit and District Criminal Courts.

The dedicated facility means that all criminal matters in the capital, up to 250,000 cases a year, will be heard in one venue.

Mr Justice Paul Carney will be the first judge to try a case in the new complex tomorrow morning.

The CCJ has 22 hi-tech court rooms, and a dedicated victim-support facility with suites for vulnerable witnesses, victims of crime and their relatives.

It also boasts a playroom with video-link facilities for child witnesses -- designed in consultation with children's charity Barnardos.

The 23,000 sq m, 11-storey building has 450 rooms and can accommodate up to 100 prisoners -- in a series of underground holding cells.

Following an international search, the iconic building was designed by Dublin architects Henry J Lyons. The project, completed several months ahead of schedule, was delivered via a public private partnership.

The existing Four Courts buildings will remain in use for civil cases.

The CCJ will be welcomed by victims of crime and their families as they will no longer have to confront suspects and their relatives -- because of the unique design of the complex.

It will be the first courthouse in the world where suspects, victims, judges, lawyers, jurors and members of the public will not meet until they enter a courtroom. The circulation system will enhance the privacy, and protection of different court users, including witnesses.

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Brendan Ryan, CEO of the Courts Service, said the CCJ "promises a great change in the axis of activity in our capital's legal quarter.


"It is the first state building of such monumental proportions to be built since 1796, when the Four Courts were first brought into operation."

The building heralds a new era for the administration of criminal justice in Ireland, with US-style court bailiffs recruited to supervise juries.

Until now, gardai were deployed to escort jurors to and from the courtroom -- to ensure that they didn't discuss the case with anyone when they were sequestered, to prevent tampering and to make sure that jurors were not intimidated.

Up to 600 people applied to join the first corps of civilian jury minders. They will be trained in their duties by judges and must be vetted and receive security clearance.

The new building also means that criminal suspects will no longer be photographed.

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