More than one person was declared bankrupt every day, on average, in Ireland last year, according to the Courts Service Annual Report for 2014.

The report shows that 448 people were made bankrupt last year, an increase of more than 500% on 2013 when 67 people were declared bankrupt.

The increase can be attributed to a change in bankruptcy law that reduced the term from 12 to three years.

432 of the cases were initiated by the debtor.

The annual report for 2014 also shows almost 327,000 orders were made at the District Court and 62% of all summary matters there related to road traffic offences.

The report also showed there were 468 rape offences and 824 indecent or sexual assault offences before the courts in 2014, down 10% on 2013.

There were 125 rape convictions, 21 murder convictions and 7 manslaughter convictions in 2014.

Serious assault offences increased by 12% and serious drug offences were up by 17%.

Cases related to debt judgments almost halved in the Circuit Court and by almost 27% in the High Court.

The number of orders committing people to prison for non-payment of debt fell dramatically, with just 72 orders granted in 2014 compared to the 2335 applications made in 2013. 

Applications made at the High Court to repossess homes and other properties decreased from 332 in 2013 to 129 last year, but the number of orders made to allow repossessions increased from 108 to 190.

Much of the business of repossession has relocated to the Circuit Court following a change in legislation and there was an increase of almost 200% in the number of orders of possession made there, from 363 in 2013 to 1063 last year.

In family law, there was a 3% decrease in judicial separation and applications for separation at the High Court and Circuit Court were made by women in more than 70% of cases.

Divorce has increased by 10% over the last two years. 

Court service rolling out advice scheme

The courts service also announced today the roll out of a new pilot scheme which will see it joining with MABS, the Citizen Information Bureau and the Irish Insolvency Service to offer independent information and advice in courthouses across the country, where cases of repossession are being heard.

Chief Justice Susan Denham said the 2014 report offered a level of hope in the area of personal debt. 

Speaking at the launch of the report, she said the figures are beginning to show that "we have gone from boom to bust in years past but that recovery and a more realistic approach to personal debt is being reflected in cases coming to court". 

She said the "enormous" increase in those in debt seeking bankruptcy themselves is a dramatic turn of events, "one which indicates that people now see bankruptcy as providing some protection, which may not have been the case in previous generations". 

Chief Justice Denham also welcomed a new service to help those involved in repossession cases.

She said the initiative "may offer a welcome relief from the fear of the unknown, from the sense of isolation the person in debt must surely feel, as they present themselves, perhaps for the first time in court, likely their first time ever acknowledging their financial circumstances".