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Irish courts heard 80 rape, 39 murder cases last year

The frequency of both murder and rape cases increased since 2010, as did the number of care orders granted to the HSE.

Image: Dr. Jaus via Flickr/Creative Commons

THE NUMBER OF rape cases heard in the Irish Central Criminal Court jumped by 27 per cent to 80 during 2011.

The figure, published in the Courts Services Annual Report today, represents a 63 per cent rise in rape cases since 2009.

There were also 39 murder cases heard, a slight increase of eight per cent in the year.

According to the report, there was no major change in overall cases with 2011 described as being “as busy as in recent years”. However, the courts remain much busier than six years ago.

Some key figures:

  • 414 European arrest warrant applications were processed in the High Court (a 9 per cent decrease on 2010 figures)
  • 32 defendants appeared before the Special Criminal Court (a 52 per cent increase on 2010)
  • 50 sentences of 10 years or more were handed down in the Circuit Criminal Court (mostly for theft/fraud/robbery)
  • 481 sentences of between five and 10 years were handed down (41 per cent of which were for theft/fraud/robbery)
  • more than 1,800 Circuit Criminal Court sentences were for between two and five years

The incidence of dangerous driving orders in the district courts fell by about 7 per cent during the year, while the number of drink driving orders dropped by a significant 12 per cent.

In the family courts, there was little change in the numbers seeking both judicial separation and divorce with wives continuing to be the most common applicants. Altogether 1,379 applications for judicial separation were made with three quarters of those submitted by the female partner. A slight reduction on 2010, a total of 3,358 applications for divorce were seen. At the High Court, 54 per cent of applications were made by husbands, while 54 per cent in the Circuit Court were made by wives.

The Health Service Executive were granted care orders in 2,287 incidents in the District Court. That marks a huge 119 per cent increase on 2010.

The increase in applications relating to the recovery of debt saw a busy time for the civil courts. The High Court heard 305 applications to wind up companies, while 33 new bankruptcies were filed.

At 21,741, cases for breach of contract and recovery of debt remained the highest category of civil claims.

Other figures from the civil courts included:

  • 634 orders for possession made (a 14 to 15 per cent decrease on 2010 figures)
  • 7,549 judgement mortgage certificates issued across the High and Circuit courts
  • 3,783 judgements for recovery of debt in High Court (a 77 per cent increase on 2009 figures)
  • 4,443 execution (of debt) orders issued (also a 77 per cent increase on 2009)
  • 16,060 personal injury actions (a 5 per cent increase on 2010 figures)

Resources and austerity

Speaking at the launch of the report, Chief Justice Susan Denham said 2011 was a challenging year for the Courts Service as “vastly reduced resources” has not reduced the people’s right of access to the courts, to justice and to a remedy.

She said there have been changes in the areas where the courts are busy and resources need to be refocused. “These remain under constant review,” she said.

However, it would be unexpected that any further savings achieved over the next two-and-a-half years would not impact on sittings.

“In dealing with such change, we are also dealing with what might well be said to be a lion’s share of austerity and the paring back of budgets,” continued Denham.

The non-pay element of the Courts Services budget has decreased by 28 per cent since the boom years but there has been a parallel cumulative increase of 29 per cent of court matters.

Staff cuts of more than 11 per cent have seen the number of cases per staff increase from 580 to 797.

Fighting the corner for her agency, Denham added: “It could be argued that the Courts are dealing with a disproportionate cut in non-pay funding relative to other Justice Agencies.”

The Chief Justice hailed the increased use of technology across the Services, as just one change which has brought greater efficiencies and savings.

“From the Annual Report, it is clear that the staff of the Courts Service – as public servants of the state – are a great example of what can be done with a joint effort,” she told a press briefing.

One of the other successes outlined in the report is the combination of circuit and district court offices in several counties – a pilot project started in 2011 – which has cut out duplication of activities and allows for more flexibility and service provision.

Denham concluded by telling the Minister for Justice that the Courts Service, by implementing all that has been asked of it, is “more than doing its part in restructuring the public service”.

“I hope in your perusal of this report, you are as impressed as I am by such efforts and energy.”

Earlier: Sentence for mother in abuse case welcomed by support group>

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