District court crisis averted as judge stayed judgment requiring prosecutors to appear in person

A potential crisis for Garda’s resources and district court operations is averted when a judge decided to stay orders clarifying who has the authority to prosecute cases.

Justice Marguerite Bolger said she is applying the adjournment to appeal her decision and granting the DPP leave because of the “very significant organizational consequences” of the decision.

His decision to withhold the effect of his decision came when the government, through Orechattas, sought a legislative amendment to restore the legal basis for Garda court presenters.

The High Court judge, in a ruling last month, clarified that the right of spectators to try a case in a district court was limited to Garda, who initiated the prosecution.

The decision was seen as effectively ending the widely used court presenting system, whereby an officer not directly involved in the case presented facts in court in cases where the defendant pleaded guilty. was registered.

This long-standing arrangement meant that the guard who initiated the summary prosecution could be freed up for other duties when the case came up for sentencing.

Presenters of the court, usually sergeants in Dublin and inspectors and superintendents outside the capital, are also able to provide a summary of the facts for the jurisdictional hearing and to state the DPP’s directions to the court.

However, Ms. Justice Bolger found the District Court’s rule, which allowed the system to operate, to be a “permissible” amendment of section 8(2) of the Garda Ciocana Act 2005.

He found that the section limited the role of the submission to Garda, who initiated the prosecution.

The case was adjourned until today to allow submissions from lawyers for the DPP, the attorney general, and Ciaran DeWitt, the person who was prosecuted. The DPP indicated that an appeal was likely.

In court today, the judge said she was “very careful” about the significant consequences her decision would have.

“It’s not about the mill,” she said.

Ms Justice Bolger said it was “a matter of public interest” and it was appropriate to withhold or suspend the effect of the decision until the matter reaches the Court of Appeal.

“I would prefer to leave it to the Court of Appeal to determine how long the effective adjournment should be in effect,” said Ms. Justice Bolger.

District Court Judge Miriam Walsh made the ruling after referring a question to the High Court in a case involving Mr. DeWitt, who was prosecuted for possessing a small amount of cannabis.

When the matter came to court on August 28 last year, Mr DeWitt indicated through his lawyer that he was pleading not guilty.

There was no appearance by prosecutor Liam Worley or a lawyer from the DPP’s office.

A sergeant indicated to the court that he had been “instructed” in the case by Garda Varli and was not able to proceed, but could provide the facts to the court in the event of a guilty plea.

The defendant challenged the ability of Sgt to do so. He claimed that the rule allowing the constable to do so was beyond the power of the District Court Rules Committee.

DPP’s lawyers had argued that the right of audience to non-prosecution gardai had existed since 1948 and that Mr. DeWitt’s interpretation would effectively maintain the current system of summary prosecution in district court.

Ms Justice Bolger said yesterday that she accepted a point made by Mr DeWitt’s lawyer, James Dwyer SC, that her client would now experience delays as a result of the adjournment.

But she said imposing the moratorium was appropriate “taking into account the public interest and practical implications” as the decision had “widespread implications” beyond Mr DeWitt.