Major concern over backlog of hundreds of court cases piling up in Donegal

December 8, 2022

Court lists in Co Donegal have reached crisis point and have become so lengthy they are at ‘unmanageable’ levels.

The ever-expanding list which is partially due to the backlog from Covid as well as other factors is being exacerbated by the high volume of adjournments.

Letterkenny District Court was told yesterday that some of the earliest dates in which contested cases could be fixed was towards the end of next year, 2023.

At Monday’s sitting of Letterkenny District Court alone, there were 398 criminal cases before Judge Éiteáin Cunningham.

The Covid-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the already-weighty lists before the courts.

The recent tragedy in Creeslough also resulted in the local courts not sitting for more than a wek as a mark of respect to those who lost their lives and were injured.

There have also been attempts to bring in outside Judges to clear some of the backlog but nationally there is a recognised shortage of Judges.

Local legal practitioners are set to get together in an attempt to clear some of the logjam, which is causing frustration for solicitors, Gardai, defendants and the Courts Service.

“The strain is lost in itself and it is becoming unmanageable,” solicitor Mr Frank Dorrian said at Monday’s sitting.

“Something could be done on an ongoing basis. Rather than elaborate, if we can say ‘there is a plea’ and park those together.

“If we go mining in materials, it is administratively difficult, but we could put these to a particular day.”

Mr Dorrian suggested that each solicitor could endeavour to get 20 such cases at each court date.

Noting that there was a ‘big bulk of matters’ to sift through, Judge Cunningham agreed that the list was ‘becoming more and more unmanageable’.

Sergeant Jim Collins agreed that some headway had to be made in eroding the vast swathes of cases to be dealt with.

A recent scheduled day at Letterkenny District Court was also cancelled due to the unavailability of a Judge.