The Law Society of Ireland Justice Media Awards took place on Thursday, 12 June 2014.
View a list of award winners and citations.
At the awards ceremony, the President of the Law Society, John P Shaw, made the following comments:
“Down the years, at the Justice Media Awards, we’ve seen and heard many award-winning stories told by top-class journalists. One important public interest story, to do with the justice system, which the Law Society feels has not yet been properly identified, researched and written by the media, relates to the cut-backs in funding of the justice system and the consequences of those cut-backs.
The cut-backs in State funding of the health system have been the subject of enormous media analysis and public debate. But nothing in any way comparable has occurred in relation to cut-backs of State funding to the justice system, whether that be in relation to cuts in criminal legal aid or the cuts to which I will briefly refer now, in the funding of the Courts Service with consequent knock-on effects on access to justice for the citizens of Ireland.
One manifestation of the cut-backs in funding of the Courts Service, which have been massive over the last five or six years, has been the closure of many dozens of court venues all over the country. A lot of these court sitting venues were in very low population areas, with low levels of court business. Of course, we accept that rationalisation in such cases was sensible and justified.
However, the systematic closure of court venues all over the country, in the Law Society’s view, has gone beyond what is rational and justified and is damaging to the very fabric of the justice system, which in many respects is as important to the citizen as the health system.
For example, the Society learned last week that a proposal is now being prepared for the Board of the Courts Service which would close the District Courts in Dun Laoghaire, Tallaght, Swords and Balbriggan – in effect all but one of the suburban court sitting venues in Dublin. What is different about these proposals is the massive concentration of population – by far the biggest in the country – that this would affect. If these closures were to occur, there would be no court venue between Bray and the north bank of the Liffey. Tallaght and its surrounding area, which, I am given to understand, has a population as big as that of Limerick, will have no court venue. Swords and Balbriggan, two of the fastest-growing population areas in the country, will have no court venue.
These closures, like those of a great many other venues around the country, are being driven solely by economic considerations and not by considerations of justice and its accessibility by citizens.
The proposed closures in Dublin are not just an issue for solicitors – they are an issue for a million people. This is a story which, in our view, waits to be written."