Kerry Sinn Féin TD PA Daly says the Government must act urgently to prevent chaos in the country’s district courts following a pivotal High Court ruling.
Under a longstanding arrangement a court presenter system has been widely used in the District Courts, under which an officer – usually an Inspector or Superintendent – who is not directly involved in a case has been able to present the facts to the court where the defendant has entered a guilty plea.
On foot of an appeal the High Court this week ruled that in such cases the evidence must be presented by the garda who actually initiated the prosecution.
The decision, which is set to come into effect from June 16, is set to have major implications for garda resources – as gardaí will be taken away from their regular duties, including street policing, to attend courts – and is also likely to cause major disruption and delays in the courts.
Deputy Daly – a solicitor by profession with years of experience in the courts – says the Government should have anticipated the decision and must act swiftly to prevent chaos in the courts.
The Tralee based TD, who is Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Law Reform, Equality and Integration, has called on the Government to either enact emergency legislation to effectively overturn the ruling or to appeal the decision and seek and stay on its implementation.
Deputy Daly said that in Kerry’s busiest District courts, in Tralee and Killarney, there are frequently long case lists that could involve up to 50 individual gardaí on a given day.
According to Deputy the new rules on garda presenting evidence would be “practically impossible” to manage.
"You can only image what the situation will be like in the bigger courts in Dublin,” he said.
"As a result [of the ruling], no Garda can now substitute in another member when a case is before a court. This will have the effect of removing Gardaí from their frontline duties and causing even greater delays in an overburdened court system,” said Deputy Daly.
“The government should have anticipated this coming and there are legislative solutions required as soon as possible to prevent policing and the courts from being affected,” he said.
“I have written to the Minister in relation to this matter and will examine avenues to legislate in this area through a Private Members bill. The whole area needs clarity but for now, the immediate issue must be dealt with swiftly,” Deputy Daly said.