A High Court judgment concerning the way in which gardaí present criminal cases to the District Court could have a significant impact on the operation of those courts nationwide.
The judgment overturns a rule which up to now allowed any garda to present a prosecution to the court, even if they are not the garda who initiated the prosecution.
The decision has already caused some disruption to district court sittings around the country, including in Dublin District Court where a number of cases were adjourned.
A significant number of cases in these courts are dealt with by 'court presenters', members of the gardaí who can give evidence where there is a guilty plea.
It is understood state solicitors may be required to present cases in the absence of the original prosecution garda.
The decision has already caused some disruption to District Court hearings today as in some cases state solicitors had to present cases instead of gardaí.
The case arose after a defence solicitor for a man charged with possession of cannabis challenged the right of a Garda Sergeant to deal with the case at the district court on what he described as "the instruction" of the original prosecuting garda who was not in court.
The man’s solicitor submitted that while the Garda Síochána Act conferred the right of any garda to prosecute and conduct proceedings in the name of the DPP, it did not provide a power for a garda to take instructions from and appear on behalf of the prosecuting garda.
The District Judge referred the matter to the High Court to establish if the Garda Sergeant had the right of audience to prosecute the case.
Ms Justice Marguerite Bolger ruled that the relevant section in the Garda Síochána Act 2005 which permits a garda to present a case to the court means that the garda must have both initiated and conducted the prosecution to have a right to be heard by the court.
The judge ruled the right of audience was not merely part of the District Court practice and procedures but was conferred by law on specified people and was part of the integrity of the judicial system and necessary for the proper administration of justice.
The judge said the outcome of the case may adversely affect the way in which criminal prosecutions are managed before the District Court and she did not underestimate the challenges in managing the system and the need for an efficient and effective system to do so.
However she said the desirability of efficiency cannot be permitted to overlook the application even over many years of a rule that goes beyond what is permitted by the law.
She said it was a matter for the legislature as to what rights of audience it wishes to give to members of An Garda Síochána or any other person but once done by statute the District Court Rules Committee cannot go beyond what the law allows.