Court buildings need appropriate facilities in terms of adequate meeting spaces, James Browne (Minister of State at the Department of Justice) has said in response to a Dáil question (16 February).
He was responding to a question from Martin Kenny TD, who said that facilities for barristers and solicitors to deal with their clients were an ongoing problem, especially where victims of crime were in very close proximity to the accused or to perpetrators.
Kenny said that the correct space and accommodation was needed, so that people would not be re-traumatised when they entered the court system, adding that current buildings were an impediment to that.
The minister responded that he had practised family law in the old courthouse in Wexford, and it was conducted in a public sphere, where people were also queuing to pay their motor tax.
The new court in Wexford town had dramatically changed the situation for people in difficult circumstances, he said.
“The Department of Justice is very much focused on getting all those facilities up to speed, so that people can have consultations and dealings in a private manner, as should be the case, right across the country,” he added.
Deputy Kenny said that the digitisation of courtrooms was also important to facilitate witnesses or expert witnesses who might be in another part of the country, or even abroad.
“It happens in some cases, but there is not enough of it. A mechanism must be put in place to ensure that can happen. It would speed up the process.
“Sometimes court cases are delayed or postponed simply because the expertise that is needed at a particular time cannot be accessed. There are solutions to all of this, and they must be examined,” the TD said.
Modernising the system would mean quicker access to justice at a more affordable cost, which was a big issue, he added.
Technology was crucial and more of it was needed, Minister Browne said.
Video technology will be enabled for expert witnesses to provide their evidence from a distance, so that court cases are not adjourned because witnesses are unavailable.
“Speaking from my own experience, I have seen the impact of court cases having to be adjourned because an important key witness was not available,” the minister said, agreeing that quicker rollout was needed for technology.