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The National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence.

An Oifig Náisiúnta um Fhoréigean Baile, Gnéasach agus Inscnebhunaithe a Chosc

  1. Minister Shatter announces the coming into operation of reforms to the in camera rule in family law and childcare proceedings

Minister Shatter announces the coming into operation of reforms to the in camera rule in family law and childcare proceedings


The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter TD, announced on 12 January 2014 the coming into operation for the start of the new legal term of reforms to the in camera rule for family law and childcare proceedings.  This includes civil proceedings under the Domestic Violence Act 1996 in relation to safety, protection and barring orders.    

The Minister signed the Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2013 (Part 2) (Commencement) Order 2014 commencing Part 2 of the Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2013 with immediate effect.

The changes that come into force allow the media to report on family law and childcare proceedings according to strict conditions.  These reforms are designed to address the need for public access to important information on the operation of family and child care proceedings in the courts. The changes are part of the Government’s commitment in the Programme for Government to reform and modernise aspects of family law.

Making the announcement, the Minister said, "We are now implementing important changes to the long-standing in camera rule in family law and child care proceedings.  It is in the public interest that there be greater knowledge of the administration of the law in this important area and in this context that the media have access to and be able to report on family law and child care cases. These reforms will provide valuable information to the public, judiciary and legal professionals on the operation of the law by our courts.  However, the public’s right to know has to be balanced with a family’s right to privacy.  It will be strictly prohibited to report any information likely to identify the parties to the proceedings or any child to whom the proceedings relate."

 

There is a continuing need to respect the privacy and anonymity of families in view of the sensitivity of these proceedings.  The courts will retain the power to exclude representatives of the press or to restrict reporting in certain circumstances.  The intention of the measure is to provide an appropriate balance in the public interest between providing greater transparency with regard to the application of family law by the courts whilst ensuring that the best interests of children are protected and that the legislation does not act as a deterrent to those who need to access the courts to address a family issue from doing so.  It is also designed to ensure that the anonymity of those engaged in family and/or childcare disputes is preserved and that sensitive information is not disclosed. The legislation prohibits the reporting of information likely to identify the parties to the proceedings or any children to whom the proceedings relate.  Breaches of the prohibition will constitute a criminal offence and those found guilty of the offence may be liable to a fine to a maximum limit of €50,000 and or a term of imprisonment up to 3 years.