For the second week in a row, scores of disappointed defendants left Mullingar District Court without their cases being heard.
Dozens of people whose summonses were not dealt with were adjourned en masse to a special court which Judge Neilan put in place for December 14 and all those whose charge sheets were not dealt with were remanded en bloc on continuing bail to December 7.
During the course of the recent sitting on November 19, the judge criticised the Courts Service for its failure to deal with the volume of work which he faces. The judge said he did not know if the court staff in Mullingar had been getting extra help since Pat Kelly, chief clerk, retired.
He said that while the president of the District Court might assign special days for hearings, the court staff were just not in a position to deal with the work and he didn’t want to be imposing on them.
“Any competent judge,” he said would not be expected to deal in five days with the number of cases before him.
“The Court Service are going to have to staff this court,” he said when another solicitor asked for a further date for a case to be mentioned.
“I can’t allow the situation to go unchallenged” he said, adding that there are many staff in statutory bodies who are “standing up doing nothing” and “could well be redeployed here”.
He said that “in the interests of justice” Mullingar District Court should have “at least two sittings a week” and that “the powers that be within the Courts Service have little or no understanding of what it takes to run a court”.
The judge said he believed that “extreme pressure” was one of the influencing factors in the decision of Mr Kelly to retire.
He referred to letters he had received from authorities, including one from the former chief executive of the Courts Service complaining of the judge’s long sittings.
His complaints, he said were not with the staff working at Mullingar District Court but with “the higher echelons who seem to think you run these things on a shoestring”.
The 14-page list of cases in front of him was, he said “the fault of the Courts Service” who “don’t acknowledge that this is a court that deals with all issues,” while in Dublin there are separate courts for family law, civil cases and others.
“Anyone who says that I don’t earn my living can go take a flying jump,” he added.
During lunch he spoke with an officer at the Courts Service and secured three special dates on December 14, 15, and 16 but said he would cancel them if solicitors felt they were “unwise”.