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05 Jul 2022

Judge criticises prison service over hearing delays

Cases

Judge criticises prison service over hearing delays

Naas Courthouse

The Irish Prison Service has been criticised  by the local sitting District Court judge over delays in proceeding with the court hearings conducted by videolink.

Videolink hearings allow people in custody to attend hearings at Naas District Court by providing audio and visual access to the court session.

However the failure to have a number of people present in Cloverhill Prison prompted criticism from Judge Desmond Zaidan at the start of the May 4 sitting.

The screens showed an empty room at the start of the hearing and after a few minutes and a few failed attempts to establish contact, the judge said “I’m going back and forth like a yo yo, they're not ready.”

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Videolink hearings normally take place at the start of the day and to make matters worse there were no video link appearances scheduled from any other places of detention on that date.

Judge Zaidan asked Sgt Jim Kelly to request the chief superintendent to write to the Irish Prison Service, adding that he would begin to strike out cases in instances where the defendant is not made available.

“It’s wearing thin, blaming Covid -19 for everything,” he added.

The pandemic caused many cases to be adjourned time and again because of the public health restrictions which mean that anybody suffering from the virus is not obliged to turn up in court.

The function of the prison services had also been affected  by the virus.

Finally Judge Zaidan asked  that the link be disconnected before it was opened later on for the hearings to take place and in the interim he dealt with cases which were otherwise before the court.

But before this happened he criticised the delay as unprofessional and asked that the Courts Service write to the governor of Cloverhill Prison.

He said there should be no delays because it is known a few days in advance who is to appear by videolink.

This criticism comes as the number of cases being adjourned from the regular court sittings continues to grow.

These delays exist because of the increase in the volume of cases going through the system as the population grows and has been compounded by delays created by rules designed to combat the pandemic.

It is common for court lists to be partially adjourned to future dates week after week.

On Wednesday last, in excess of 100 cases were adjourned for six months without any guarantee that these will proceed on the new date.

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