It’s been a busy couple of weeks but the Eamonn Lillis trial is entering it’s final stages.  The defence have started going into evidence and once they’re done it’s all done bar the shouting – that is, the speeches by both sides and the judge’s summing up and charge of the jury.  Then it’s all down to the six men and six women who have the ultimate task of passing judgement on whether or not Eamonn Lillis killed his wife.

It’s been the first big trial in the new court complex on Parkgate street.  I’ve posted my view on the courts on this blog before and I’ve also written about the media facilities in the Evening Herald.   But it’s not just the press that are unhappy.

It was one thing giving out about the courts in November when I first wrote about them.  Back then the paint was still wet and they weren’t properly open.  But over the past few weeks they’ve had a proper test run and have dealt with the public crush that accompanies a trial like the Eamonn Lillis one.  They haven’t done well.

The biggest problems are the new courtrooms.  Nobody seems to like them.  The gardai don’t have room to put all the evidence they must bring with them every day of a trial and when the court is full there’s nowhere for the 20 or so witnesses they need in an average day to sit.

The journalists don’t like the fact the press bench is positioned so that surreptitious glances around the court are next to impossible and that there are no plug sockets in easy reach for power hungry laptops.

The courts are too hot and the layout makes easy movement around problematic.  But the biggest problem, especially with a high profile trial, is the lack of a public gallery.  I’ve written before about The Crowd, the gaggle of elderly tricoteuses who attend any kind of public blood letting with rapacious glee.  With the Lillis trial they’ve descended on the court in their dozens.

Every morning they mass around the doors into the courtroom so that when the accused arrives he must push through the leering mob who giggle like sixties teenagers in the presence of a Beatle.  In the past the bulk of these rubber neckers have been banished to the public gallery where they can view the proceedings without getting under foot.

The new courts have no public gallery, although an overflow facility is available in the jury assembly room on the ground floor, when it’s not being used, is provided.  Of course no one wants to watch proceedings on a TV screen so no one takes up the option.  Consequently they mass six deep at the back of the court.  The family of the deceased, who are having to listen to traumatic evidence on a daily basis, also have to put up with shopping bags rested on their heads and hands resting heavily on the backs of their seats.

Every morning the mob gathers and the press must wait with them.  When the doors are eventually opened there is an undignified scramble to get through like the first day of the sales.  The courts security don’t appear to recognise that the press are any different from the day trippers and apart from the wonderful intervention of Courts Service PRO Gerry Curran on Friday when we were allowed to take our seats before the crush descended, the morning stampede adds considerable stress to the working day.  I can only imagine what it’s like for the accused, his family and that of Celine Cawley.

It’s certainly not dignified for anyone, reducing them to a similar position as zoo animals, and it’s considerably worse in the new courts.  It’ll be very interesting to see how things are managed in future trials and whether, in fact, this is a problem that can be solved at all.

The new courts are going to take a lot of getting used to.