The Minister for Justice Helen McEntee (pictured) is to bring forward emergency legislation to clarify the legal basis for garda court presenters.
Court presenters are members of an Garda Síochána (AGS) who specialise in court work in the District Court, prosecuting cases on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
The legislation is aimed at addressing issues raised by a High Court ruling recently that threatened to cause serious disruption in the District Courts.
Right to conduct a prosecution
Ms Justice Bolger overturned a rule under which many criminal prosecutions were presented by a garda unconnected to the original investigation.
A stay on the ruling has been granted until the final orders are made on 16 June.
The Department of Justice said that the planned legislation would clearly establish a right for any garda member to conduct a prosecution, regardless of whether that member initiated the prosecution.
“The system of Garda court presenters is a well-established one, enabling more efficient use of police resources by reducing the need for individual gardaí to attend court to prosecute every criminal offence they detect,” said minister McEntee.
“If remedial legislation is not put in place to allow for the continued use of court presenters, it is expected there would be significant disruption to the operation of the District Courts throughout the country, and significant costs involved in putting in place alternative arrangements,” she added.
Waiver of scrutiny
The minister is aiming to have the bill passed through all stages in the Oireachtas by 16 June.
She is also seeking a waiver of pre-legislative scrutiny from the Oireachtas Justice Committee.
Court presenters deal with procedural matters – including evidence of arrest, charge and caution in first appearances in court, remands, bail applications, and presenting a summary of evidence in guilty pleas.
The minister is proposing a short three-section bill, amending the Garda Síochána Act 2005.
- Amend “institute and conduct” in sub-section (2) of section 8, so it reads “institute or conduct”,
- Provide that the prosecution may be conducted by the instituting garda member or any other member,
- Come into effect on enactment, and apply to prosecutions currently in progress, as well as future prosecutions.