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Lawyers to prosecute Garda district court cases after court ruling bans officers from presenting

This is an interim solution and will include individual State solicitors as well as DPP prosecutors.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

Updated Jun 3rd 2022, 3:32 PM

GARDAÍ ARE SET to draft in barristers to prosecute their cases in the District Court following a High Court ruling which bans garda court presenters. 

As revealed by The Journal on Tuesday summary prosecutions were thrown into disarray by Ms Justice Marguerite Bolger as her ruling banned garda court presenters prosecuting cases.

Court presenters are generally gardaí at sergeant or inspector rank who act as prosecuting gardaí in court – they act on behalf of other, often lower-ranking gardaí, and outline the details of cases for the judge. 

This was designed to keep gardaí on the streets and save on overtime payments for court appearances and essentially means lower ranking gardaí have to attend court less often. 

Sources have said that high level meetings between senior gardaí, the Department of Justice and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) followed the judgement earlier this week.

It is believed that just hours after the ruling was delivered gardaí met with the DPP to thrash out a solution.  

To prevent any issues around prosecutions failing in the District Court a solution was found and operational gardaí have been told that barristers as well as solicitors will be used to prosecute garda cases in court. 

At present barristers are used to act on behalf of the State in the Circuit and Special Criminal Court but only in exceptional circumstances in the District Court.

The issue of gardaí acting as prosecutors in the district court was mentioned in the Commission on the Future of Policing more than four years ago. 

The report recommended that it was not appropriate that investigators act as those prosecuting the case. This was accepted by Government but never acted on. 

The case in which the ruling was made was DPP versus Davitt – a case which involved a referral or “case stated” to the High Court to determine a point of law. 

In Tuesday’s judgement Ms Justice Bolger admitted that her decision may “adversely affect” how prosecutions are handled in the District Court. 

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“This court does not underestimate or disregard the administrative challenges in managing the system of District Court criminal prosecutions and the need for an effective system to do so.

“However, the desirability of efficiency cannot be permitted to overlook the application (even over many years) of a rule that goes impermissibly beyond what is permitted,” she explained. 

When asked about the use of barristers and other lawyers a Garda spokesperson said:

“An Garda Síochána is working closely with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to ensure continuity in the prosecution of cases before the District Courts.”

The Department of Justice referred our query to the DPP but said: “The Department notes that a stay has been granted until the final orders are made in this case. The Department is considering the implications of the judgment and any actions necessary in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General and An Garda Síochána.” 

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