Belfast Telegraph

Courts 'take lion's share of cuts'

The courts have taken the lion's share of austerity cuts while dealing with a huge number of cases linked with the economic crisis, Ireland leading judge has warned.

Chief Justice Susan Denham revealed the workload had soared by almost a third despite 38% in savings being achieved in recent years.

Staff cuts have resulted in each employee handling 797 cases, a 37% jump from 580, she said.

Mrs Denham reported increases in rape cases, theft, fraud and robbery cases in the criminal courts last year, with a drop in murder, drugs and road traffic cases.

"In the civil courts, there were increases across all jurisdictions in applications relating to the recovery of debt though, notably, there were decreases in applications for possession in the High Court and applications for committal regarding debt in the District Court," she continued.

"These decreases might well reflect changes in the law. In dealing with such change we are also dealing with what might well be said to be a lion's share of austerity and the paring back of budgets."

The Chief Justice claimed further saving of any magnitude would impact on court sittings.

She revealed the courts budget, excluding pay, had been cut by 28% since 2008 to 113 million euro, while court matters had risen by 29% since 2005.

"This is compared to 19.5% for the next closest agency in the justice family and compared to the 2.6% average for all justice agencies," Mrs Denham added.

"It could be argued that the courts are dealing with a disproportionate cut in non-pay funding relative to other justice agencies."

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