The District Court is the lowest court in the Irish court system. It is presided over by the President of the District Court and 63 District Court Judges.
The District Court is organised on a regional basis. There are 23 District Court Districts, as well as the Dublin Metropolitan District. Each District is in turn divided into District Court areas.
The District Court is a court of local and limited jurisdiction. This means it is restricted as to which cases it can decide in both civil and criminal matters.
A District Court cannot hear a case that has not been commenced in the correct District Court area. The case must be brought, heard and decided in the District Court area:
- in proceedings based on contract, where the contract was made
- in proceedings based on tort (e.g., personal injuries actions), where the tort is alleged to have been committed
- in proceedings to eject a person from lands or property, where the lands or property in question is located
The District Court is restricted to hearing cases where the damages or compensation sought do not exceed a certain amount. The District Court can hear cases:
Other types of cases that the District Court may hear include:
A criminal case will be heard in the District Court area where:
There are two types of criminal offences:
The criminal jurisdiction of the District Court falls under the following headings.
Summary offences that may be heard by the District Court Judge sitting without a jury. This makes up the great bulk of the work of the District Court and these offences come from legislation only.
Indictable offences which are triable summarily on the basis that:
These types of offences are specified in the appropriate legislation.
Indictable offences that may be dealt with summarily (not certain offences including rape, aggravated sexual assault, murder, treason and piracy) when:
If the case is not dealt with by the District Court, the accused is sent forward to the Circuit Court for sentence. At the Circuit Court, he/she may withdraw his/her plea of "guilty" and alter it to "not guilty", in which case a trial takes place.
Indictable offences not triable summarily, that is, cases that must be heard by a judge and jury. In these cases, the accused is served with a "Book of Evidence", i.e., a statement of the charge and of the evidence intended to be introduced to the court and a list of witnesses and exhibits. The Disrtict Court Judge no longer considers the material and submissions, on behalf of the accused or the prosecution, to decide whether there is a sufficient case. This was the process known as preliminary examination and has been abolished. The District Court Judge will send the accused forward to the Circuit Court or Central Criminal Court for trial once the book of evidence has been served and the DPP has consented to sending the case forward.
For more information about the District Court contact:
15-24 Phoenix Street North
Tel:+353 (0)1 8886000
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.