437,000 deal struck to hold criminal trials in Croker
Croke Park will host trials
December 29 2020 02:30 AM
Only weeks after hosting winter All-Ireland finals, Croke Park is about to witness clashes of a very different kind.
A contract has been agreed for the holding of criminal trials there for three months, beginning in the middle of next month.
Under the deal, the Courts Service will pay the GAA €437,000 for the use of the ground’s conference facilities, which are viewed as ideal for facilitating compliance with pandemic social distancing requirements.
It is expected to cost an additional €302,000 to run the courts there over the three months when security, catering and information and communications technology (ICT) costs are taken into account.
However, much of the ICT will be repurposed for use elsewhere by the Courts Service when the deal ends.
Space in courtrooms has been an issue since the pandemic struck, particularly in cases where juries are required.
New criminal trials were not held between March and July following the first Covid-19 lockdown, leading to a significant backlog of cases.
When criminal cases did return in September, they were limited to 12 trial venues around the country.
The Courts Service spent months identifying alternative venues that could safely accommodate large numbers of people.
Under the deal, three courts will sit at Croke Park and 200 court sitting days are provided for.
The stadium will host trials that are expected to take longer than usual, while six courtrooms in the Criminal Courts of Justice on Parkgate Street will continue to focus on trials that typically take a shorter time to hear.
A contract was signed earlier this month by Courts Service chief executive Angela Denning and Croke Park’s head of business Mark Dorman.
In a statement, the Court Service said it had “very specific requirements” that needed to be met in searching for alternative court venues.
Ms Denning said the facilities at Croke Park would provide “a venue which is respectful of the importance of the proceedings” and “respects the professional needs and the security, privacy and dignity of court users”.