Published on Tuesday 9th July 2013

Shatter publishes Bill to amend the Constitution to provide for Court of Appeal

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter, TD, welcomed Cabinet
approval for the publication of the Thirty-third Amendment of the
Constitution (Court of Appeal) Bill 2013.

The Bill provides for the establishment of a Court of Appeal, if the
proposal is approved by the people in a Referendum to be held in early

On the publication of the Bill, the Minister said “This is another
important staging post on the way to a Referendum in the Autumn and
hopefully a reform of our courts architecture that is long overdue. I am
looking forward to debating the Bill in the Houses and to the wider
discussion with the public between now and October. We are on the cusp of
taking a major step towards modernising the architecture of our superior
courts system in Ireland to facilitate cases being heard expeditiously in
the most appropriate forum.”

The need for a Court of Appeal arises mainly from the increase in cases
being determined by the High Court in recent years and the consequent
on-going significant backlog of cases awaiting hearing on appeal before the
Supreme Court. The average delay for new non-priority appeal cases is now
of the order of 4 years. Earlier this year, the Chief Justice announced
her decision not to accept any new priority cases, given that there were
already over 70 cases on the priority list.

The Supreme Court in Ireland, unlike in other common law jurisdictions is
the Court of Final Appeal in all cases. In other countries, the Supreme
Court mainly deals with cases involving substantial points of law or issues
of major pubic importance. In Ireland, however, the Supreme Court is taken
up with issues ranging from routine interlocutory orders to major
constitutional issues and everything in-between.

The new Court of Appeal will deal with most cases that are currently dealt
with by the Supreme Court, thus reducing its workload and allowing it to
focus on the development of the law. The model for the new Court of Appeal
is largely drawn from the Report of the Working Group on a Court of Appeal
which was chaired by now Chief Justice Denham and which was published in

Minister Shatter continued “Those who are parties to court proceedings are
entitled to have proceedings determined within a reasonable period of time.
This proposed reform will ensure that, and in doing so both protect the
rights of citizens and address difficulties currently affecting the
commercial sector. There is a cost to society in not having an efficient
court system. Leaving aside the obvious costs faced by the parties
directly concerned, there is a cost to our reputation as a developed modern
democracy if people can’t have their cases litigated without undue delay.
We also know that this is an issue for foreign multinational companies when
they are deciding where to invest. Countries that have properly
functioning, efficient and effective legal systems are at a clear advantage
over those that do not.”

The intention is that after the establishment of the Court of Appeal, most
appeals will be concluded at that court. The Supreme Court will hear
appeals from the Court of Appeal where the issue involved concerns a matter
of general public importance or where it is in the interests of justice
that the appeal be heard by the Supreme Court. This should result in the
number of cases heard by the Supreme Court falling substantially. However,
where there are exceptional circumstances that warrant it, the Supreme
Court will be able to hear appeals directly from the High Court, where the
general public interest or interests of justice test is also met.

Minister Shatter added, “As a referendum is required to make constitutional
provision for the establishment of a Court of Appeal, this is ultimately a
decision for the People and they are sovereign. Having said that, I am
hopeful that we will be able to demonstrate the clear merits of the
proposal and show that it is in all our interests to have a courts system
that can cope with the demands placed upon it and administer justice
efficiently and without undue delay. I believe that the proposal will
enable our courts to achieve this important objective.”

The Minister went on to express his appreciation to all those who have
contributed in bringing the issue to this point. In particular, he paid
tribute to Chief Justice Denham and the members of the Working Group on a
Court of Appeal which reported in 2009. He also thanked those who had
participated in and contributed to the consultation process including the
judiciary and the professional bodies.

The Bill is available at

09 July 2013


Note for Editors

Court of Appeal
The Working Group Report on a Court of Appeal was published in May 2009 and
is available at$FILE/Report%20of%20the%20Working%20Group%20on%20a%20Court%20of%20Appeal.pdf


The Report considered a number of options and recommended the establishment
of a Court of Appeal between the Supreme Court and the High Court. The
Court of Appeal would deal with most appeals from the High Court, as well
as appeals from the Circuit Criminal Court and the Central Criminal Court.

The main features of the Bill published today are:

1. The Court of Appeal will have civil and criminal jurisdiction and
will replace the Court of Criminal Appeal, for criminal cases;

2. There will be a right of appeal of all cases, including those
involving constitutional issues, from the High Court to the Court of

3. In exceptional circumstances, there will be a right of appeal from
the High Court to the Supreme Court;

4. If the Referendum is passed, the Oireachtas will bring forward
legislation to provide for the establishment of the Court of Appeal.
The Government will then make an order appointing a day on which the
court will be established.

It is expected that the new court will be established in Autumn 2014.