The Court of Appeal Act 2014 was signed into law by President Higgins on 20 July 2014. It provides for the establishment of the Court of Appeal to sit between the High Court and the Supreme Court. The appellate jurisdictions of the Supreme Court, the Court of Criminal Appeal and the Courts-Martial Appeal Court are to be vested in the new Court of Appeal.

While the establishment of the Court is, in itself, revolutionary, many of the provisions as to its operation mirror the present procedures in the High and Supreme Courts.  However, there are some procedural amendments of note due to the Court’s establishment.

Interlocutory injunctions

Although the Court will generally sit in divisions of three judges, the President of the Court or another judge nominated by the President may hear interlocutory applications sitting alone. Similar provision is made in relation to the Supreme Court for the hearing of interlocutory injunctions by a single judge.

One judgment rule in criminal appeals

The one judgment rule previously applied by the Court of Criminal Appeal is amended slightly by allowing for dissenting judgments on matters relating to the constitutionality of any law. The one judgment rule is retained for all other criminal matters.

Future Supreme Court appeals

In future, only cases which meet one or both of the following criteria will be granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court:

  • The matter must be of general public importance
  • It is in the interests of justice that it be heard by the Supreme Court

There is no necessity for an oral hearing in a leave to appeal application. However, the determination of such an application must be accompanied by reasons.

Appeals before the Supreme Court on the date of establishment

The Supreme Court can transfer any class of appeal it sees fit (which has not been heard in full or in part) to the Court of Appeal for determination. To remain in the Supreme Court list, it is likely the Supreme Court will apply the above criteria, i.e. is the matter of general public importance and/or is it in the interests of justice that it be heard by the Supreme Court. Cases which have been heard in full or in part will remain with the Supreme Court. The Court of Criminal Appeal or the Courts-Martial Appeal Court will retain jurisdiction over matters which have been heard in full or in part prior to the establishment day.

It is expected the Court will be established by October of this year.

Martin Scanlon