Dáil Éireann - Volume 471 - 05 November, 1996
Written Answers. - Court Hearing Delays.
Mr. Bell Mr. Bell
195. Mr. Bell asked the Minister for Justice if her attention has been drawn to the substantial time which civil actions take, particularly in accident cases at work and road accidents; her views on what is a reasonable period of time for the processing of such cases; the plans, if any, she has to improve the service to the victims of accidents; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20440/96]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen) Nora Owen
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): I am aware that there are delays in the hearing of cases in the courts which extend to civil proceedings in respect of accidents at work and road accidents. It must be emphasised, however, that the time taken for the processing of such cases is subject to a variety of factors, many of which are outside the control of the courts.
Over 50 per cent of all civil cases initiated are subsequently not pursued through the courts system. Of those that are, no case is listed for  hearing until a notice of trial is lodged by the parties involved. The time that elapses between the issue of the proceedings and the lodgement of a notice of trial is entirely in the hands of the parties. Once a case is listed for hearing it is subject to applications for adjournment from either party. Indeed in many instances, cases are not pressed forward by, or are adjourned at the request of, legal advisers in the interests of their clients.
It is not possible, therefore, to say what is a reasonable period of time for processing such cases. However, in relation to those factors which are within the control of the courts I have outlined in this House and elsewhere on several occasions the very extensive range of measures I have introduced to tackle resource and other issues affecting delays in the hearing of cases, including civil actions, in the courts. These include the largest ever increase, at one stroke, in the number of judges and support staff; radical overhaul of the courts by the Denham group; the provision, this year alone, of almost £7.4 million for the building and refurbishment of court accommodation; and the introduction in the Courts and Court Officers Act, 1995 of administrative and procedural reforms which have simplified and speeded up the processing of cases through the courts which will, in due course, enhance the overall efficiency of the courts system. Long delays in the hearing of cases can lead to injustices and this is why I am taking all possible steps to ensure the courts have the resources they require to address the problem of delays and speed up the hearing of cases.
The working group on a courts commission has published two reports to date and continues to examine all aspects of the operation of the courts system. I look forward to receiving further reports in due course.
Other Ministers have also taken initiatives in the area of personal injuries actions. On 31 November 1996 the Minister of State with responsibility for commerce, science and technology announced the establishment of a special working group to examine how best to create a personal injuries tribunal as recommended by a consultancy report on insurance costs in Ireland. A working group on the administration of personal injury and accidental damage compensation claims made against the State was set up by the Minister for Finance and the Attorney General to consider the way in which State agencies deal with personal injury and accidental damage compensation cases and to make recommendations for the establishment of an executive body to act as a claims agency for the State. I await the reports of both these working groups with interest.
Dáil Éireann 471 Written Answers. Court Hearing Delays.