The Maximum Number of Judges Order (Northern Ireland) 2020

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 5:45 pm on 14th December 2020.

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Photo of Emma Rogan Emma Rogan Sinn Féin 5:45 pm, 14th December 2020

This statutory rule will increase the statutory limit on the number of High Court judges from 10 to 15, which will allow for the appointment of part-time judges. As has been said, that will allow for headroom where judges are required for unforeseen pressures and circumstances. We have read and heard statistics being rehearsed over the last number of months that have made it clear that COVID has increased the backlog of cases that are waiting to be heard across all court divisions. Although that increase is concerning, concern about the backlog of cases waiting to be heard existed prior to COVID. There is a major need to increase the speed at which cases are heard and progressed, and key to that could be increasing the number of High Court judges who are available for trials.

The statutory rule will not, in itself, increase the complement of High Court judges; it merely increases the statutory limit. I encourage the Department to carry out further work to examine whether there is scope to increase the High Court judicial complement and to assess the impact that that would have on the speeding up of justice. The Department needs to do all that it can to recruit additional judges to ensure that the diversity of the judiciary is increased.

My party supports the motion.