A report published by the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ), part of the Council of Europe, has found that Ireland spent just 0.1% of GDP on its judicial system in 2018, the lowest of 46 jurisdictions measured in this way.
Its report shows that European states spend an average of €72 a year per inhabitant on their legal systems, up €8 since 2016. Ireland spends €59.50 per person on its judicial system, with €27.80 of this going towards the courts.
Ireland’s spend per person is below the median of €63. Northern Ireland’s figure of €110.73 was among the highest, while those for the other two systems in the UK were just above €76.
The report comes a week after a record level of funding was announced for the justice sector in Budget 2021.
Ireland scores low on judges
There was an average of 21 judges per 100 000 people among the countries covered, with significant differences between states. Ireland has just 3.3 judges per 100,000 people, with only 3.1 for England and Wales.
The CEPEJ says the variations may be explained by factors such as differences in the ways countries' legal systems are organised.
The report finds that while the number of female judges and prosecutors is continuing to increase, the legal profession remains predominantly male.
61% of Irish judges were male in 2018, meaning Ireland was one of seven jurisdictions where the percentage of female judges was below 40%. These included the three legal jurisdictions in the UK: England and Wales; Scotland; and Northern Ireland.
On average there are now 164 lawyers per 100,000 inhabitants, but the Irish figure is higher at 270.6 and just above the 270.3 for England and Wales. The Irish figure for female lawyers, 133.6, is also well above the median.
The CEPEJ uses a ‘clearance rate’ to measure how efficiently courts systems deal with their caseload and this is calculated by comparing the number of resolved cases with the number of incoming cases. A score lower than 100% indicates that a backlog is increasing.
For civil cases, Ireland scored poorly, with a figure of 63.1% in courts of first instance. Only Iceland scored worse in this category, though the Irish figure rose to 90.3% in courts of highest instance.
In Europe overall, the number of courts decreased by 10% between 2010 and 2018, the report showed.
The CEPEJ says courts across the continent were able to continue functioning during the pandemic thanks to recent advances in technology.