Divorce applications in Irish courts rose by almost a third last year, according to figures from the Courts Service.
In 2020, 5,266 divorce applications were made across the High Court and Circuit Court, compared with 4,073 in 2019. The figures show there were more than 3,000 applications made by wives compared with 2,265 by husbands.
Most of last year saw courts across Ireland adapt to the challenge of Covid-19 – with nearly 6,000 court sittings held remotely since the start of the pandemic.
The report also shows that from 2019 to 2020, there was a 12% increase in the number of domestic violence applications. The latest data shows that over the course of the last five years, there has been a 65% increase in domestic violence applications sought from courts, increasing from 13,941 to 22,970.
Last year also saw an increase of 15% in the number of cases and appeals involving serious crime. In the last four years, there has been a 31% rise in serious crime cases coming before the Circuit Criminal Courts.
The number of drugs cases at District Court level rose by 16% from 33,242 in 2019 to 38,635 in 2020.
Chief Justice Frank Clarke launched the report, saying: “The core function of the courts and the Courts Service is, of course, to enable disputes to be resolved through the court process and for appropriate orders to be made in accordance with justice and law.
“Much of that core function could not have been carried out in the traditional way because of the restrictions imposed by the pandemic.
“However, there was no option but to try to keep as much of that core function operational as could be achieved while complying with public health regulation and guidance.”
Mr Clarke praised the rapid response of courts and courts staff to the pandemic, adding: “Within a short number of weeks, many courts were conducting much of their business through remote hearings where that form of hearing was considered to provide an acceptable means of dealing with the proceedings.”
Much of the new data reveals the impact the pandemic had on day-to-day life in Ireland.
In 2020, there was a 70% drop in licensing applications compared with the year before due to lengthy lockdowns and restrictions introduced to tackle the virus.
Waiting times for criminal trials have also lengthened, with Circuit Court waiting times beyond a year in locations including Clonmel, Dublin and Galway.
The number of personal injury cases filed in Irish courts also fell from 22,000 in 2019 to 17,810 in 2020. In the High Court, there was an 8 million euro decline in the amount of awards, with a 5 million euro reduction in the Circuit Court.
Angela Denning, chief executive of the Courts Service, said it was important to learn the lessons of the pandemic.
“The work of the courts often reflects what is happening in society at a given point in time,” she said.
“It is an example of what can be achieved by being agile, innovative and efficient in a rapidly changing environment. The challenge is to build on the positive experiences from the pandemic.”