Home > Modernising staffing and court management practices in Ireland: towards a more responsive and resilient justice system.

OECD. (2023) Modernising staffing and court management practices in Ireland: towards a more responsive and resilient justice system. Paris: OECD Publishing.

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The effectiveness and efficiency of the justice system are important factors for strengthening citizens’ trust, ensuring the proper functioning of markets, and driving inclusive growth. The certainty of judicial decisions, the accessibility of judicial services, effective contract enforcement and secure property rights are demonstrated drivers of economic activity and foreign direct investment. Effective justice institutions are critical for protecting democratic values and strengthening the social contract between citizens and the state. Acknowledging this, Ireland has launched an ambitious strategy to build a more inclusive, efficient and sustainable justice sector. Irish citizens recognise these efforts: Ireland is one of the OECD countries with a higher percentage of citizens trusting their government and courts, as highlighted in the recent OECD Survey on the Drivers of Trust in Public Institutions.

As part of the OECD work on accessible, effective and efficient justice institutions, this study seeks to support these efforts by analysing the judicial workforce and relevant support structures and processes currently employed by the Irish courts. In particular, the study aims to contribute to the deliberations of the Irish Judicial Planning Working Group, which was established to identify reform initiatives and evaluate staffing needs to enhance the efficient administration of justice over the next five years. The study methodology calculated judicial full-time positions in Ireland using the number of filings and the average amount of time required to manage distinct case types (case weight), divided by a judge’s working hours throughout a year. The case weights were obtained through a judicial time study and verified through Delphi vetting estimates across the Irish Court of Appeals, the High Court, the District Courts and Circuit Courts. The study also included stakeholder interviews helped identify options to enhance the efficiency of court procedures and infrastructure. It benefited from comparable data and peer reviews from OECD countries including Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Ireland has the potential to shine as an international dispute-resolution hub. To do so, Ireland needs to continue investing in the court reforms that lie at the heart of its 2020 Programme for Government, while supporting stronger leadership in pursuing these reforms in a way that enhances trust and collaboration among justice sector stakeholders, as well as the broader public.

This study represents the first application of the weighted workload methodology in Irish courts. To adjust this model to the Irish court system, significant preparation steps had to be completed before detailed data collection instruments could be designed. It was decided that all court levels would participate except the Supreme Court, as its jurisdiction and role differ from other courts. With respect to the specialised courts, judges suggested to exclude the Drug Treatment Court as it has a unique focus, limited caseload and is adequately staffed. A Judicial Liaison Group made up of one judge from each of the participating court levels and two representatives from the Courts Service was formed to ensure that the study design, implementation, analysis and resulting recommendations were fully reflective of court operations and their environment.

PDF p.197: At the District Court level, there is a special Drug Treatment Court that aims to effectively link addicted offenders to appropriate treatment options and reduce recidivism, thereby reducing the burden on all parts of the justice sector.

PDF P.206/207: Specialisation is globally considered important to create a more efficient and effective court system. It can also be useful to address broader economic development issues, such as the need for more effective access to contract dispute litigation, improvements in the investment climate or more adequate protection of the environment. Specialisation can refer to judges who have gained particular expertise in a selected field and are assigned almost exclusively to related cases, a special bench of judges dedicated to handling only certain types of cases, or an entire court set up to handle only a targeted type of cases.

All of these types of specialisation exist in the Irish courts and, with the development of the new Family court divisions, will continue to develop. These include the Drug Treatment Court, the Commercial Court list and other lists focusing on certain case types only, especially at the High Court; and in the future, special Family Courts. There is still room to explore other specialisation options, such as a special Traffic Court in Dublin. The limited data collected for this study indicate that this could be a helpful option, but a more detailed assessment would be needed to design an effective approach. Specialisation is not always designed to create greater processing efficiency, but rather greater effectiveness in achieving a justice goal. For example, the main goal of the Special Drug Treatment Court in Dublin is to link addicted offenders to the right treatment options and other services to help address the underlying addiction, lack of access to work opportunities, etc., thereby reducing recidivism in the long run. The new Family Court divisions currently being developed shift and expand current family law operations at the District, Circuit and High Court level. The aim is to increase judicial expertise and training in family law, and to streamline family law proceedings to make them more user-friendly and less costly (Department of Justice, Ireland, 2021[24]). This should lead to more timely and more effective access to justice for families. To ensure the achievement of this objective, processes would need to be adequately adjusted, together with the needed judicial and other resources within and outside of the court system.

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, International, Report
Drug Type
Substances (not alcohol/tobacco)
Intervention Type
Crime prevention
February 2023
258 p.
OECD Publishing
Corporate Creators
Place of Publication
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