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Court delays cost money

Court delays cost money

Edwin McGreal

It has become very fashionable nowadays to rail against any wastage of public funds. When a household is strapped for cash, every expenditure is scruitinised to see where savings can be made and where cuts can be applied.
The same is happening now in Ireland, on a macro level. Where once a trip by cabinet ministers to St Patrick’s Day parades around the world was not alone unquestioned but very much embraced; the more recent decision of former Minister for Health Mary Harney to go to New Zealand whilst in government was slammed from virtually all quarters.
But, just as the excess spending in the Tiger years was questioned too little, perhaps some spending patterns now are examined too zealously.
Whether something is a waste of money or not shouldn’t be dictated by economic conditions of the time but by a common-sense examination of the spend.
By any evaluation it is hard to see how the delays at the holiday sitting of Castlebar District Court this month should not be questioned.
During the month of August regular court sittings in Mayo stop for the holiday season and a once-weekly sitting takes place on Wednesday to deal with matters arising during the month.
Like the regular court sittings in Mayo, the holiday sitting is due to start at 10.30am. However in the four sittings this August, not once did the judge, Judge Conal Gibbons in each instance, sit before 11am. Last Wednesday it wasn’t until 11.44am that he entered the courtroom, although, to be fair, he had dealt with a matter in-camera in his chambers for a period of time before this.
In a time when Garda resources are greatly restricted, surely they could be better used than having to sit and wait for a judge to arrive. This reporter was at the last two sittings of the holiday court. For the first one, eleven Gardaí waited patiently along with nine solicitors and a number of people before the court for a variety of matters, from criminal issues to pub license transfers.
Last week ten Gardaí, including two superintendents, waited along with ten solicitors. I doubt there will be too much sympathy for the solicitors twiddling their thumbs, and the same goes for the journalists waiting too. But the Garda presence is surely a waste of taxpayers’ money.
Fair enough, it is a holiday sitting and the judge has to travel a certain distance to make it to Castlebar. Surely, though, a simple communiqué in advance could have been arranged and Gardaí stationed in Castlebar could be carrying on with work at the nearby Garda Station? The cost of that call would certainly be a public expense easy to justify.