There are four main courts in Ireland: the District Court, the Circuit Court, the High Court and the Supreme Court. Other courts in operation are the Special Criminal Court and the Court of Appeal.
Articles 34 to 37 of Bunreacht na hEireann (the Irish Constitution) deal with the administration of justice in general and outline the structure of the court system. Article 34.1 states that: "Justice shall be administered in courts established by law..." The present courts were set up by the Courts (Establishment and Constitution) Act 1961 (as amended).
The District Court has jurisdiction over minor civil and criminal matters. You can appeal the outcome of a case heard in the District Court to the Circuit Court.
The Circuit Court has jurisdiction in more serious civil and criminal matters. You can appeal the outcome of a case heard in the Circuit Court to the High Court.
The High Court is presided over by a President of the High Court. It also has jurisdiction over civil and criminal matters. For example, the most serious criminal offences, such as murder, are dealt with by the High Court.
The Court of Appeal hears appeals from cases heard in the Circuit Court and High Court.
The Supreme Court was created as the final court of appeal and is presided over by the Chief Justice.
Though courts can have jurisdiction over both civil and criminal matters, the Special Criminal Court only deals with criminal cases.
The Courts (Establishment and Constitution) Act 1961 also provides for the setting up of special courts where the best interest of justice would not be served in a normal court, for example, the Children's Court and the Drug Court.
The courts are supported by the Offices of the Courts. For example, the Office of the Ward of Court is responsible for the supervision of the affairs of people taken into the wardship of the High Court.
The Courts Service was set up under the Court Service Act 1998 to manage the courts and court buildings, and to provide information about the operation of the courts.
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