Feb 25, 2021

Victims groups have expressed alarm over prospects that more murder and rape trials may not start for two years as a result of a court backlog caused by the pandemic.This follows a case before the Central Criminal Court yesterday where a defendant charged with attempted murder had a trial date set in March 2023. Earlier this week, the CCC fixed commencement dates for four other trials in 2023.
Measures taken to tackle the spread of Covid-19 have put trials on hold in the CCC, which deals with cases of murder, rape and serious sexual offences.
The court is prioritising cases where the accused person is in custody. In the case dealt with on Wednesday, the accused has been on bail since last March.
We are extremely concerned to read reports that murder and attempted murder cases are being adjourned for trial until 2023, said Joan Deane, spokesperson for AdVIC (Advocates for Victims of Homicide).
This is particularly traumatising for victims families who will have to suffer emotionally over a prolonged period and are left to question when will justice be served. 
She said there was a serious risk that people released on bail could encounter victims families, or in cases of attempted murder the victims themselves, given they often live within the same community.
We believe that these decisions should be revisited in this light, but more importantly because it is at odds with the message from Government that the end of Covid-19 is truly in sight,” she said.
Ms Deane added: Far from a new dawn, this represents a new low for victims and their families.” 
It is simply impossible to comprehend how on one hand we have a scenario where 80% of adults could have received a vaccine dose by the end of June and yet trials for serious crimes are being delayed by two years?
How can we honestly be having a public debate about the reopening of the hospitality sector this summer, when adjournments like this are happening. Clearly priorities are all wrong and this once again highlights that the criminal justice system is not victim centered in its approach. 
Noeline Blackwell, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) chief executive, said that as they support victims going to court in sexual offence cases, they were already aware many cases were being adjourned.
We are becoming more and more apprehensive about the build-up of cases, particularly jury trials and it is quite daunting to see dates now being set more than two years out, she said.
Ms Blackwell said that one of the main issues regularly for victims of sexual offences, ever before the pandemic, was the long delay between complaint and trial.
During that time, the victim is required to live repeatedly with every aspect of the offence, as their accounts are often the main evidence in a trial. Because the victim and accused are generally known to each other, there is an added burden when they might encounter each other, she said.
My heart sinks for all those bringing complaints when you see the reality of trial dates.
She said the main solution will have to be more judges and more courts.”
One Courts source said it would be a “misnomer” to say there was now a backlog of two years in the CCC on the back of one case.
Courts Service annual reports indicate that, in most years, waiting time for trials before the CCC could be between 12 and 18 months.
A spokesman for the Courts Service said: “Central Criminal Court trials have been delayed since the return of the courts in January due to the high incidence of Covid-19.
“Courts had been hearing jury trials between August and Christmas and various measures have been taken to avoid a build up of cases.”
He added: “The courts stand ready to restart jury trials once it has been advised safe to do so.”

  • AdVIC: 1800 852 000 
  • DRCC National Helpline 1800 77 8888