Minister for Justice Helen McEntee is to publish new legislation to allow pre-trial hearings to take place in criminal cases. 

It is hoped the legislation will be enacted by the summer.

The measures in the Criminal Procedure Bill 2021 will make it less likely that long legal argument in the absence of the jury will have to take place in criminal trials and should make the court process faster and more efficient. 

Pre-trial hearings will be able to deal with issues such as the admissibility of evidence, which often delay criminal trials. It should also allow matters which could lead to the collapse of a trial to be identified before a jury is sworn in.

The change has been recommended in a number of recent reports on white collar crime and on protecting witnesses in sexual offence cases.

Minister McEntee said delays to the start of a trial and multiple adjournments can add to stress and make the victim's experience much more difficult.

It is intended the bill will pass all stages by the summer recess.