A District Court judge has criticised the delay in bringing summary matters before the District Court, adding that these delays meant that the system as it stands is ‘just not working’.
Judge Mary Devins made her comments at last week’s sitting of Westport District Court after hearing a case that she believed had taken too long to come before the courts.
Evidence in the case in question was given by Supt Aidan Foley, who said the defendant, Mr Lucas Gavin of 3 Ocean View, The Quay, Westport, was a passenger in a car that was searched by Gardaí at The Quay on September 7, 2011. The defendant threw away a cigarette box which was found to contain cannabis worth €12.16.
The defendant was also before the court for another incident on November 26, 2011, where Gardaí, using a search warrant, searched Mr Gavin’s residence and found one cannabis plant in a wardrobe, valued at €400.
Defending solicitor, Ms Helena Boylan told the court that her client had been in a road traffic accident and had been using cannabis after his medication was not working. The plant found had been grown for his own use only.
Judge Devins described the case as an ‘interesting’ one in terms of how justice is administrated in the District Court. She said in this case, a search had taken place on September 9, 2011. The cannabis found had been examined locally on foot of an application in October yet the return date for the case did not take place until April 2012, which she said was too long a period.
Judge Devins said the defendant was caught in September, yet summonses were not issued until February. She added if the defendant had been served quicker the second incident may not have occurred at all and the delay in prosecuting cases like this were against the ethos of the District Court. She said a case like this should have been mentioned at Castlebar District Court on the previous day as all the ‘big wigs’ were in attendance for the day.
“I see no need for these delays in small county towns and to me the system is just not working,” added Judge Devins.
Supt Aidan Foley refused to agree that the system was not working and said he hoped the court accepted that the issues at play were outside of Garda control.
Judge Devins said she was not entirely happy with the process but in this case, if Mr Gavin gave an undertaking to stop using cannabis, she said should would apply the Probation Act if the defendant paid €200 to the National Council for the Blind.