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Courts system in Ireland

The courts system in Ireland has its origins in the 1922 Constitution which was enacted on the foundation of the Irish Free State
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The courts system in Ireland has its origins in the 1922 Constitution which was enacted on the foundation of the Irish Free State.

The Irish Court was established in 1922 Constitution which was enacted on the foundation of the Irish Free State.

 New courts were established in 1924 under the Courts of Justice Act, 1924 which established the legal basis for a court system.

That Constitution provided for the setting up of new courts to replace those which had evolved under the British administration.

The present courts were set up by the Courts (Establishment and Constitution) Act 1961 pursuant to Article 34 of the Constitution adopted by the Irish people in 1937.

Articles 34 to 37 of the Constitution deal with the administration of justice in general. Article 34.1 states that 'Justice shall be administered in Courts established by law'. The Constitution outlines the structure of the court system as comprising a court of final appeal (the Supreme Court), a Court of Appeal, and courts of first instance which include a High Court with full jurisdiction in all criminal and civil matters and courts of limited jurisdiction, the Circuit Court and the District Court organized on a regional basis.

Judges are completely independent in the performance of their functions and on their appointment take the oath set out in Article 34.6.1 as follows -

"In the presence of Almighty God, I do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that I will duly and faithfully and to the best of my knowledge and power execute the office of Chief Justice (or as the case may be) without fear or favour, affection or ill-will towards any man, and that I will uphold the Constitution and the laws. May God direct and sustain me."

In relation to criminal trials, Article 38 states that 'No person shall be tried on any criminal charge save in the due course of law'. Minor offences are tried in courts of summary jurisdiction while a person accused of a more serious offence cannot be tried without a jury. The Constitution also makes provision for the establishment of Special Courts to secure the effective administration of justice where the ordinary courts would be unable to do so. The public are welcome to enter all courts except those displaying the 'in camera' sign which means that the case is not open to the general public.

Ireland Structure of the courts:

Supreme Court
The court of final appeal in civil and criminal matters. Appeals may be made only where the Court grants permission in limited circumstances as set out in the Constitution.
Can decide on the constitutionality of a bill if referred to it by the President.
Can determine a question of the permanent incapacity of the President if it arises.
Most cases are dealt with by three judges though up to seven judges can sit.

High Court

Has full original jurisdiction in, and power to determine, all matters, whether of law or fact, civil and criminal.
Power to determine the validity of any law having regard to the Constitution.
Appeal court from the Circuit Court in civil matters

Central Criminal Court

Criminal division of the High Court. Tries serious crime including murder, rape, treason and piracy.

Court of Appeal

Deals with appeals from the High Court in civil cases and appeals from the Circuit Criminal Court, the Central Criminal Court, or the Special Criminal Court in criminal cases. Cases are dealt with by three judges.

Circuit Court
Court of limited and local jurisdiction organised on a regional basis.
Civil: Claims up to the value of 75,0000.
Family Law: Divorce, judicial separation, nullity and other ancillary matters.
Criminal: Jury trial of offences other than those triable in the
Central Criminal Court.
Appeal court from the District Court in all matters.

Special Criminal Court
Established for the trial of offences in cases
where it is determined that the ordinary courts
are inadequate to secure the effective
administration of justice and the preservation of
public peace and order. Cases are dealt with by
three judges.

District Court

Court of limited and local jurisdiction organized on a local basis.

Civil: Claims up to the value of 15,000.

Family law: Maintenance, custody, access and domestic violence.

Criminal: Non-jury trial of offences including most road traffic offences.

The Small Claims Procedure operates within the District Court

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