The new corporate strategic plan for the Courts Service has been published and covers the years 2021-2023.
It sets out the direction, challenges and priorities for the development of a modern, fit-for-purpose and cost-effective courts system.
Justice minister Helen McEntee said she welcomed the goal of maximising the court use of digital technologies to provide an improved and user-centred service.
“The Courts Service has adapted with innovation and speed during the pandemic and many of the practices introduced due to COVID-19, such as increased use of video links and e-filing, point the way towards a 'digital first' future for the Courts Service,” she said.
The strategic plan includes the creation of:
- A dedicated family court,
- A new Judicial Appointments Commission,
- Implementation of key reforms recommended for the administration of civil justice by Mr Justice Peter Kelly,
- Changes for vulnerable witnesses in sexual violence cases suggested by Tom O’Malley SC.
Minister McEntee also commended the judiciary and the Courts Service for their tenacity and commitment throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They have embraced innovation in maintaining vital functions with particular focus on children, victims of domestic abuse and other citizens who are most vulnerable at this time,” she said.
Six strategic goals
The latest three-yearly plan has been approved by Minister McEntee and laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas under the relevant terms of the Courts Service Act 1998.
The six strategic goals, 26 priority actions and 22 key outcomes include:
- Adopting new collaborative ways of working, taking a user-centric approach, to provide improved and enhanced service delivery,
- Working collaboratively with the judiciary to define and provide the resources needed to effectively carry out their judicial functions,
- Adopting a digital first approach,
- Continuing to invest in a high-performing organisation, delivering on the modernisation agenda and broader Government priorities,
- Providing buildings that are modern, fit-for-purpose, safe and accessible,
- Robust governance structures to ensure effective accountability and leadership for modernisation and reform.
Budget 2021 provided the highest ever budgetary allocation for the justice sector including €158.8 million for the Courts Service.
This included €8 million for the initial phase of the Courts Modernisation Programme along with an additional provision of €5.7 million for COVID-19 measures to enable court sittings take place in a socially distanced and safe environment.