The High Court is the third tier of the Irish courts system and the highest tier in which legal proceedings can be commenced. It has jurisdiction over civil and criminal matters and hears the more serious cases, such as trials for murder.
Unlike the Circuit Court and District Court, the High Court is not a court of local and limited jurisdiction. This means that it is not restricted to hearing cases from certain areas and there is no limit to the amount of monetary damages it can award.
Structure of the court
The High Court consists of the President of the High Court, who is responsible for managing the operation of the whole court as well as hearing cases, and up to 48 ordinary judges. The President of the Circuit Court, the President of the Court of Appeal and the Chief Justice are also judges of the High Court.
Cases in the High Court are normally heard and decided on by 1 judge. However, the President of the High Court can decide to have a case heard by 3 judges in what is known as a divisional court.
When hearing civil cases, the High Court is normally based in the Four Courts in Dublin. When hearing criminal cases, it is known as the Central Criminal Court and is based in the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin.
The High Court also hears cases which were commenced in the High Court (not appeals from lower courts) in the following locations:
- Cork and Galway
- Waterford, Sligo, Letterkenny and Dundalk
- Kilkenny and Ennis
The High Court hears appeals from the Circuit Court in civil and family law cases throughout the year in Dublin and twice a year at the following venues:
You can access the full schedule of High Court sittings in provincial venues on the Courts Service website.
The High Court can determine all matters and questions, whether of law or fact, civil or criminal. The High Court can deal with actions from all parts of the country and there is no general limit or restriction on how much money the Court may award in compensation or damages.
In certain more serious civil cases (such as defamation or claims for damages for assault) a judge may sit with a jury in the High Court. In all cases, a majority vote of 9 of the 12 jurors is needed to determine the verdict.
The High Court can:
- Hear cases about claims for damages of over €75,000 (personal injury €60,000)
- Hear questions about the validity of a law
- Hear appeals from the Circuit Court in civil matters
- Review the decisions of all lower courts by judicial review
- Give rulings on a question of law submitted by the District Court and can hear appeals in certain other circumstances provided by statute
- Review decisions of certain Tribunals of Inquiry
- Review certain decisions made by public bodies (for example, decisions of the Minister for Justice on immigration matters)
You can read more about High Court procedure in civil cases.
When the High Court is hearing cases about criminal matters it is known as the Central Criminal Court. In criminal matters, the High Court Judge sits with a jury of 12.
The following types of offences must be heard by the Central Criminal Court sitting with a judge and jury:
- Encouragement or concealing knowledge of treason
- Offences relating to the obstruction of government and obstruction of the President
- Murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to murder
- Offences under the Genocide Act, 1973
- Rape, aggravated sexual assault and attempted aggravated sexual assault under the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act, 1990
A verdict does not have to be unanimous (agreed by all members of the jury) in cases where there are at least 11 jurors, provided at least 10 of them agree on a verdict after a reasonable amount of time has passed (not less than 2 hours).
If you are refused bail in the District Court you can apply to the High Court for bail. If you are granted bail in the District Court, you can apply to the High Court to change the conditions of bail. If you are charged with murder and certain other serious offences, you can only apply to the High Court for bail.
Office of the Examiner of the High Court
The Office of the Examiner of the High Court has a role in several types of High Court proceedings, including:
- Administration suits - when the estate of a deceased person has become the subject matter of litigation. For example, where there is a dispute as to how the estate has been administered, what assets are in the estate, who is entitled to benefit from the estate and who is a creditor of the estate. The Examiner will conduct the relevant inquiries.
- Mortgage suits - certain proceedings where the holder of certain types of mortgage is seeking to sell the underlying property. The Examiner will coordinate the sale process once an order for sale is made by the court.
- Bankruptcy matters – the Examiner processes applications for bankruptcy and acts as Registrar to the court assigned to deal with bankruptcy proceedings, known as the Bankruptcy List. The Examiner also acts as a Registrar to the court assigned to deal with matters proceeding before the Examiner, known as the Examiner's List.
The Examiner no longer has a supervisory role in the liquidation of companies, unless the winding up order was made prior to 1 June 2015.
The role of the Examiner of the High Court should not be confused with the role of an examiner who may be appointed by a court to assess the prospects of survival of a company in financial difficulty.
You can read more about the Office of the Examiner of the High Court on the Courts Service website.
For more information about the High Court, including information about lodging a case, you should contact the Central Office of the High Court.
Appointments for non-urgent matters
You can book an appointment online to attend the Central Office of the High Court. This service is for non-urgent matters only, such as:
- Attested orders
- Deed poll
If you need to make an appointment for an urgent matter, you can email email@example.com.
Office of the Examiner of the High Court
For bankruptcy court matters, administration suits, next of kin inquiries and any other matters remitted to the Examiner by the court, you can contact the Office of the Examiner of the High Court.
You can also read more about High Court procedure on the Courts Service website.