Evidence display facilities are now available in 70 courthouses to allow for viewing of garda interviews, CCTV footage and other electronic evidence.
Video evidence was heard by the High Court in 124 cases during the year.
The Chief Justice Frank Clarke also discloses that a new on-stage process in the allocation of dates for the Court of Appeal has streamlined the administrative process and made court access more cost-effective.
Courts Service chief executive Brendan Ryan (pictured) also confirms that the Courts Service has established a communication protocol with Government to determine how legislative proposals will affect court operations.
The Courts Service budget saw a 13% increase in 2018, to €131.575 million. This figure incorporates a one-off capital building project VAT payment of €23.8 million.
Courts Service payroll costs increased by 4% or €2.161 million last year.
Courthouse maintenance funding was up 4%, or €1 million, with an additional €0.845 million allocation to technology upgrades.
New courthouses opened last year in Letterkenny, Wexford, Limerick, Cork, Waterford and Mullingar.
A total of forty judicial assistants were also appointed to the Courts Service in 2018, bringing to total to 76. These posts are generally filled by recent law graduates.
There were 160 judges in position by year-end, out of a 170 total maximum allowed. Eight were on the Supreme Court, ten on the Court of Appeal, 38 on the High Court, 41 on the Circuit Court and 63 on the District Court.
Interpretation service requests were up 26% last year with a consequent increase in associated costs, to €1,332,820, up from €912,000 in 2015.
The majority of these were for Polish, at 2,587, with Romanian in second place at 1,541 and Lithuanian at 1,182.
The Courts Service is also developing a hub for electronic sharing of information across the justice sector, in order to drive down the double entry of data.
Proposals are being prepared on electronic lodgement of charge sheets, as well as sharing of court lists with the Prison Service. All court outcomes will also be provided to the hub.
Virtual meeting room
A virtual meeting room platform is also under development and this will enable witnesses to give evidence by smartphone, Skype or tablets.
There was no increase in the number of new personal injury cases before the courts last year. The numbers remain at 8,900 new cases.
Awards made in medical negligence cases in the High Court were down from €99 million in 2017 to €91.4m in 2018, a 7.5% drop.
The average award per case reduced from €1,976,088 to €1,038,840 – a drop of over 47% in levels of award on the previous year.
In all High Court personal injury cases there was a drop of almost 19% in the total amounts awarded, and a 23% drop in the average amount awarded in each case, down from €457,854 to €351,263.
Property and Debt
There was a 52% decrease in new repossession cases year-on-year – down to 1607, from 3356 in 2017.
This represents an 82% decrease over five years – down from 8,293 in 2013.
There was a 20% reduction in repossession orders made and a 16% reduction in bankruptcy applications, which were down to 382.
Cases to seek debt recovery were down 12.5% to 23,318.
Personal insolvency applications dropped by 62% to 909 last year, from 2385 in 2017.
The number of asylum cases dealt with and finalised in 2018 increased by 75% to 494 – up from 283 the previous year.
And 2018 saw a 53% increase in European Arrest Warrants resolved in 2018 with 132 cases finalised, up from 82 the previous year.