The Criminal Procedure Bill completed its final stages in the Seanad today (19 May) and provides preliminary trial hearings in criminal trials for the first time in Irish law.
James Browne (Minister of State for Law Reform, Youth Justice and Immigration) said the change had the potential to bring huge improvements and efficiencies to the criminal-justice system.
“We often hear of delays in trials due to lengthy legal argument over the admissibility of evidence or other such matters. While these arguments are resolved, the jury is sent away. These delays can be lengthy and disruptive.
“Preliminary trial hearings will help make sure that many of these matters can be argued and resolved before the jury is empanelled, reducing delay and disruption, and helping to keep proceedings on track and running more efficiently,” he said.
This legislation follows recommendations from a number of reports in recent years, including on white-collar crime and corruption, and increased protections for vulnerable witnesses in sexual-offence cases.
The minister added: “Victims have told us how difficult it is for them to have to mentally prepare for a trial, only to have it not proceed on the set date, or to have proceedings drag out due to repeated adjournments.
“I want to do as much as I can to make the trial process as humane as possible, while still protecting the important rights that accused persons have to defend themselves robustly.”