Irish Law Times

Justice Delayed, Justice Denied- The Case for a Court of Civil Appeal

It is unquestionable that basic human rights protections include the right to a fair trial. National constitutions and international conventions conclusively protect the right of access to the court. However, what are the extents to this protection? Specifically, does it extend to civil trials? Undoubtedly, it does, and as such the Irish court structure, as it currently stands, routinely breaches human rights due to the excessive delays in appealing civil cases to the Superior Courts.

Excessive delays in the Irish court system have been well documented,1 with a four-year wait for a Supreme Court appeal now being the norm.2 The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) clearly protects these rights in art.6, specifically referring to both “civil rights” and a “hearing within a reasonable time”.3 Three years is not reasonable and recent jurisprudence from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has upheld this view.4 Reform is necessary, not only to ensure Ireland’s compliance with the Convention, as a contracting state, but also in order to ensure proper administration in the Superior courts. This reform should consist of the establishment of a Court of Appeal, which would in most cases, be the final court of appeal in Ireland. It would allow the Supreme Court more time to undertake its original role, in dealing with constitutional matters and points of law of exceptional importance. Reforms  have already taken place in order to speed up the litigation process. This is particularly evident from innovations such as the Commercial List. A Court of Appeal, whilst requiring a referendum, is the most practical and efficient manner in ensuring that undue delay does not occur in having cases heard in the country’s final court of appeal…

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