Five extra High Court judges ‘one of the largest increases in recent memory’

The planned appointment of five additional High Court judges is “one of the largest increases in judges approved in recent memory and a very significant investment by the State in judicial resources”, ministers have said.

The government, which announced its plans to expand the High Court bench in April, today confirmed the necessary legislative changes would be included in the Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2021.

Justice Minister Heather Humphreys said the five extra judges would “ensure sufficient resources are available to address areas of immediate need within the Court, including the pressures on criminal justice arising from Covid and the issues arising in terms of strategic infrastructure development”.

Ms Justice Mary Irvine, president of the High Court, recently called for the appointment of 15 to 20 additional judges, warning that the current bench of 37 judges was not enough to handle the coming “tsunami of litigation”.

In April, Maura McNally SC, chair of the Bar Council, said: “Our view is that while five additional High Court judges is welcome, the need is in fact many times that, something raised by the President of the High Court some weeks ago.”

A report from the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) last year noted that Ireland has just 3.3 judges per 100,000 people, compared to a European average of 21 judges.

Ireland also has one of the lowest judicial budgets, with just 0.1 per cent of GDP spent on the judiciary compared to a European average of 0.33 per cent.

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