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Measures to overhaul criminal trials to be set out
Justice minister Helen McEntee Pic: RollingNews.ie

21 Jan 2021 / courts Print

Overhaul of criminal trials set out in new legislation

The Criminal Procedure Bill 2021 which will, for the first time, provide for preliminary trial hearings in Irish law, has been published. 

The legislation will be enacted before the summer Dáil recess, according to Justice minister Helen McEntee.

The changes will make long legal argument in the absence of the jury less likely and court processes more efficient, the department says.

Evidence admissibility will be dealt with at the pre-trial stage, with less likelihood of matters emerging which could lead to a trial collapse.

Improved procedures for sexual offences, white collar crimes, organised crime and other complex offences are also promised, the department added.


Minister McEntee said: “Preliminary trial hearings will improve the operation of criminal trials, benefitting victims, the courts, defendants, witnesses and jury members.

“Trials are too often delayed or disrupted because issues which should be dealt with in advance, such as the admissibility of evidence, are subject to legal argument in the absence of the jury.  Practical arrangements to determine the availability of witnesses will also help to speed up the process.

“This legislation will reduce the likelihood that a jury will be sent away immediately after being sworn in to allow for legal argument, or sent away multiple times during the trial.

“I am conscious of the very negative impact of COVID restrictions on criminal trials but this practical Bill will support case management and help to ensure the parties are ready to proceed on the day of the trial. This will also deliver efficiencies as certain criminal trials will now have fewer delays.

Legal argument

“Preventing lengthy legal argument mid-trial and helping to ensure that trials start when they are supposed to will deliver significant efficiencies and savings in the courts.” 

The provisions have been developed in consultation with the Courts Service and the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The full text will be published by the Bills Office in the coming days.

Gazette Desk
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