An annual overview of justice systems across the EU has found that the public perception of judicial independence has decreased in more than half of member states over the past 12 months.
European Commission vice-president Věra Jourová (pictured) described the finding as “concerning”, saying that it showed that action was needed to restore the trust of the public in the judicial system.
The EU Justice Scorecard 2022 provides comparative data on the efficiency, quality and independence of justice systems across the union.
It shows that, since last year, the public perception of judicial independence has decreased in 14 member states, based on figures from a Eurobarometer survey.
Ireland ranks relatively highly in this area, however, coming in eighth of the 27 countries. Poland and Hungary fill the bottom two places.
Independence of lawyers
Ireland comes even higher in the perception of judicial independence among companies, ranking fourth.
The scoreboard shows that Ireland is one of 11 countries to receive a maximum score of nine for the independence of its lawyers and their professional bodies.
Ireland, however, had the lowest number of judges per 100,000 inhabitants in the EU in 2020, according to the scoreboard, though it ranked eighth for the number of lawyers.
Ireland was also third from the bottom for spending on law courts as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020.
The commission acknowledges that new measures were adopted in many countries to ensure that the courts continued to function during the COVID-19 pandemic, but warns of a need to accelerate modernisation programmes, as “notable room for improvement remains” in some states.
Despite progress, the report finds that fewer than half of EU states have digital-ready procedural rules that allow fully for the use of distance communication, and for the admissibility of evidence in digital format only. In the remaining states, this is possible only in limited number of situations.
A breakdown shows that the Irish system is at the lower end of many of the digitisation rankings.
It scores six out of 12 (the maximum score) for procedural rules allowing digital technology in courts in both civil/commercial and administrative cases, and four out of 12 for criminal cases.
Ireland is also 21st in the rankings for use of digital technology by courts and prosecution services, and 23rd in providing secure electronic communication tools between courts and practitioners.