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Court of Appeal – main changes

In this referendum, you may vote Yes or No to the proposal:

  • To establish a Court of Appeal and
  • To change how the Supreme Court issues decisions in cases where it is asked to decide whether or not a law is constitutional (the “one judgment” rule).

The Courts system

The present Courts system includes:

  • the Supreme Court (highest court)
  • the High Court
  • the Circuit Court
  • the District Court (lowest level court)

There is also a Court of Criminal Appeal which hears appeals in criminal cases from the High Court, the Circuit Court and the Special Criminal Court. The roles of the High Court and the Supreme Court are set out in the Constitution.

If this referendum is passed:

  • A new Court – the Court of Appeal – will be set up at a level between the High Court and the Supreme Court.

 

What the proposed Court of Appeal will do

At present, there are long delays in having appeals heard by the Supreme Court.

If this referendum is passed, the new Court of Appeal will hear:

  • most of the appeals which are currently heard by the Supreme Court
  • virtually all appeals from decisions of the High Court
  • appeals from other courts if laws are passed to provide for this.

Appeals to the Supreme Court

In general, the decision of the Court of Appeal will be final. In some cases, there may be a further appeal from the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court and there may be some direct appeals from the High Court to the Supreme Court.

If this referendum is passed:

  • The Supreme Court will hear appeals from the Court of Appeal if the Supreme Court considers that:
    • the decision involves a matter of general public importance or
    • the interests of justice require such an appeal.
  • The Supreme Court will hear appeals directly from the High Court if it considers that there are exceptional circumstances which warrant a direct appeal to it. The Supreme Court must be satisfied that:
    • the decision involves a matter of general public importance and/or
    • the interests of justice require such an appeal.

Appeals waiting to be heard

The referendum proposal also includes provisions which deal with what is to happen to appeals already in the courts system when the Court of Appeal is established. In general, the Supreme Court will issue directions about which of these appeals may be heard by the Court of Appeal.

Establishing the Court of Appeal

If the referendum is passed, the Oireachtas will be required, as soon as practicable, to pass a law establishing the Court of Appeal. This law will, among other things, provide for the date on which the Court of Appeal will be established.

This law or future laws may provide for a range of other matters including:

  • appeals to the Court of Appeal from courts other than the High Court
  • incorporating the Court of Criminal Appeal into the new Court of Appeal
  • the appointment of judges to the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal will hear cases about whether or not a law is constitutional. Any laws passed will not be able to restrict this.

The referendum on the Court of Appeal also contains a proposal to change how the Supreme Court gives its decision in certain cases. For more detail on this click here.

And make sure you use your vote on October 4th.