DEFENDANTS in criminal prosecutions are being warned they face the prospect of being remanded in custody if they do not turn up for court hearings.
In recent weeks both gardai and members of the judiciary have expressed concerns about the number of bench warrants that have been issued at Limerick Court due to the non-appearance of defendants.
There is a view among senior gardai that a significant minority of defendants are “picking and choosing” when to come to court.
This Monday, Judge Eugene O’Kelly hit out at those who he accused of taking an “à la carte” approach to turning up in court.
He was speaking during the case of a man who had been the subject of a number of bench warrants in the past. “Far too much time is being taken up by warrants. Tuesday, the remand day, is delayed excessively,” said Judge O’Kelly.
He proceeded to list off a number of excuses he has heard recently - “I forgot about court”, “I didn’t get out of bed on time”, “the bus was late” and “my lift didn’t arrive”.
Judge O’Kelly said there has to be a change in attitude. “Those not turning up cause gardai and court staff considerable trouble and expense, as well as time being wasted” said the judge.
Last week, Sgt Donal Cronin said gardai would be “adopting a tougher attitude” going forward “notwithstanding the strain on resources”.
He said anybody who fails to appear in court can expect to be charged under Section 13 of the Offences Against the State Act and he said gardai will also be objecting to bail or seeking stringent bail conditions such as the provision of an independent surety.
Garda sources have also revealed that bail conditions, such as curfews and signing on conditions, will be policed more aggressively.