Introduction

Only a few weeks after Judge Rosemary Horgan, President of the High Court, bemoaned, in remarks to the EdTech 2016 conference that, “paper was still king in our Courts”, the Courts Service has announced its intentions to further invest in technology in its Annual Report 2015. This is to be assisted by an additional €2.5m for further IT improvements throughout the Courts Service, which was announced by Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald on 12 July 2016.

The Courts Service has named investment in technology as one of its key priorities. It noted that reduced funding and resources over the past six years have prevented the Service from taking full advantage of the opportunities that technology offers. Chief Justice Susan Denham has also been quoted warning that the Courts Service was reliant on outdated IT systems.

Brendan Ryan, Chief Executive of the Courts Service stated, “With reduced resources and growing workloads, technology offers the best solution to enhancing customer service and delivering improved value for money for the tax payer”.

Below we look at some of the more interesting IT projects that are coming online soon.

eLicensing

Following from the successful implementation of electronic access in the areas of Insolvency arrangements and Small Claims, this year sees the introduction of eLicensing in the District and Circuit Court. Licensing applications and renewals account for approximately 50,000 cases a year in the lower courts and work commenced during the year to develop an eLicensing system to incorporate the online filing of licensing applications, the payment of court fees online and the provision of access to an electronic licensing register. It will mean that applicants will not have to attend a court office in person until the actual hearing takes place.

The project will be trialed in District No. 2 (Donegal area), District No. 6 (Louth area), 16 (Wicklow area) and 23 (Wexford area) in the coming weeks. Full roll out is anticipated by early 2017 subject to funding.

Debt Claims Online

Another area that is highlighted for investment is Debt Claims Online. The Service plans to provide an online system for the processing of liquidated debt claims across all jurisdictions. Development work was at an advanced stage in 2015 and awaits enactment of the necessary legislative provisions.

eProbate

In the next year to 18 months, a new eProbate service is also intended be made available to enable executors of wills commence the process of distributing a deceased’s estate online.

Wi-Fi

In a welcome development for practitioners and the public alike, the Courts Service will continue to improve the availability of access to Wi-Fi in court buildings.

A link to the full Court Services Report 2015 can be found here.