Tuesday, 16 June 2020
Department of Justice and Equality
344. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if full video link facilities and the capacity to take CCTV evidence is available in full in both courtrooms in the Drogheda court building; if not, when the Courts Service will remedy the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10901/20]
Under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts, including the provision of accommodation for court sittings, is the responsibility of the Courts Service which is independent in exercising its functions.
However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made. The Courts Service has confirmed that Drogheda court sittings have been temporarily transferred to Dundalk courthouse. As part of the Courts Service response to the Covid-19 pandemic, court business was consolidated into larger courthouses to allow for social distancing. These are temporary measures and, as the country reopens, the Courts Service are reviewing their operations to maximise the resources available to them, while following Government guidelines to ensure that court business is conducted in a safe environment. The future use of Drogheda courthouse is part of the review.
The Courts Service has built a significant video-link infrastructure over the last decade but it was not installed in every courthouse for budgetary reasons and because the projected usage did not justify the investment. When Drogheda courthouse was built, the building was future proofed by being wired to facilitate video-link. However, the technology was not installed as Dundalk courthouse already had the facility and resources were needed in other parts of the country.
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, video-link usage has seen significant growth and the Courts Service expect this to grow further in the coming years. A business case is presently being prepared to install video-link facilities in courthouses that are considered suitable and that presently do not have them. Drogheda has been identified as one such courthouse. This does not guarantee the installation of the technology as the business case will be assessed and approved on its merits but it is an objective of the Courts Service to maximise the use of technology where it is sensible to do so.