Dáil Éireann - Volume 628 - 22 November, 2006

Written Answers. - Court Procedures.

Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the in-camera rule; the number of family law cases which have been heard since the new legislation was passed; the number that have been reported; the number of stenographers and reporters who have been appointed to cover the family court cases since the legislation was passed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39291/06]

  Mr. McDowell: Section 40 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 provides for a relaxation of the in camera rule while continuing to respect the confidential nature of family law cases. The section also provides that nothing in a relevant enactment shall operate to prohibit the preparation of a report of proceedings in family law cases or the publication of the decision of the court in those proceedings. The report may be prepared by a barrister at law or a solicitor or a person falling within a class of persons specified in regulations made by the Minister. The section goes on to state that the identity of the parties to the case or any child to which the proceedings relate must not be disclosed. The attendance of any person to report on a case must be in accordance with rules of court.

On 1 July 2005, I made the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 (Section 40(3)) Regulations 2005 which specify the following classes of persons entitled to apply to attend family law proceedings for the purpose of publishing reports on the cases:

(a) family mediators who are accredited to the Mediators Institute Ireland, nominated by the Family Support Agency, and approved by the Minister,

(b) persons engaged in family law research who are nominated by a body specified in the Schedule to these Regulations and approved by the Minister,

(c) persons engaged by the Courts Service to prepare court reports of proceedings under relevant enactments.

[311] To date, I have approved one family mediator and several other persons engaged in family law research on the nomination of bodies specified in the Regulations and, in view of enquiries made to my Department, I expect to receive further nominations shortly. In addition the Courts Service has recently engaged a Family Court Recorder on a one year pilot basis. Appointment of stenographers is a matter for the Courts Service and the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 made no provision in this respect.

Information on the operation of the Courts is contained in the Annual Reports of the Courts Service which are available in the Oireachtas Library. The Service may also provide other information on request.