The High Court is made up of 36 ordinary judges and the President of the High Court. The President of the Circuit Court, the President of the Court of Appeal and the Chief Justice are also additional Judges of the High Court. The High Court is based in the Four Courts in Dublin when hearing civil cases. 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 four times a year
- Limerick three times a year
- Waterford, Sligo and Dundalk twice a year
- Kilkenny and Ennis once a year to hear
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 outside Dublin:
Cases in the High Court are normally heard and decided on by one judge. However, the President of the High Court can decide to have a case heard by three judges in what is known as a divisional court.
The Irish Constitution states that the High Court has "full original jurisdiction in and power to determine all matters and questions, whether of law or fact, civil or criminal". This means that there is no limit or restriction on where proceedings begin or how much money can be awarded by the High Court in compensation or damages.
In certain civil cases, such as defamation, assault and false imprisonment, a judge will sit with a jury in the High Court. In all cases, a majority vote of nine of the twelve 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, those on environmental matters
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 twelve.
A verdict does not have to be agreed by all members of the jury in cases where there are at least eleven jurors, if at least ten of them agree on a verdict after a reasonable amount of time has passed (not less than two 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 you can only apply to the High Court for bail.
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