The Minister for Justice has said she expects emergency legislation to be passed next week to address a recent High Court ruling affecting the prosecution of cases in the District Court.

The Minister for Justice Helen McEntee this evening said she had received Government approval to bring forward legislation.

It follows a High Court judgment last week which overturned a rule allowing any Garda to present a prosecution to the District court, even if they are not the Garda who initiated the prosecution.

District Courts nationwide were affected by the judgment which caused significant disruption.

The Minister said the legislation would provide for a continued legal basis for Garda Court Presenters
and will "clearly establish a right for any member of An Garda Síochána to conduct a prosecution, whether or not that member initiated the prosecution."

Court Presenters are members of An Garda Síochána who specialise in court work in the District Court, prosecuting cases on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

They deal with important procedural matters including evidence of arrest, charge and caution in first appearances in court, remands, bail applications and presenting a summary of evidence in guilty pleas.

Minister McEntee said "the system of court presenters is a well-established one, enabling more efficient use of police resources by reducing the need for individual Gardaí to attend court to prosecute every criminal offence they detect.

"If remedial legislation is not put in place to allow for the continued use of Court Presenters, it is expected there would be significant disruption to the operation of the District Courts throughout the country and significant costs involved in putting in place alternative arrangements.

"I hope that the Bill can pass through all stages in the Oireachtas by June 16."

The Minister said the issue "needs to be addressed by legislative amendment as a matter of urgency to avoid serious disruption to the District Courts throughout the country and the costs of putting in place alternative arrangements, which would increase for each day the legislation is not enacted following the taking effect of the judgment."

The Bill will be published as soon as possible, according to the Minister.

A statement from her department also said that "owing to the urgency of the matter, and the serious operational and cost implications that will arise if the judgment becomes operative, the Minister considers it necessary to seek a waiver of pre-legislative scrutiny from the Justice Committee and to also seek a motion for early signature of the Bill by the President following the passing of the Bill by the Houses of the Oireachtas."

Last week's judgment caused a number of District Court cases to be adjourned as a significant number of cases in the District Courts are dealt with by Garda court presenters.

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 An Garda Síochána Act 2005 which permits a Garda present a case to the court means that the garda must have both initiated and conducted the prosecution to have a right to the 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 wish 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.