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728. Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice if statutory powers are in place that remove or restrict access and custody orders made by a court in cases in which a person benefiting from those orders is subsequently charged with serious offences such as false imprisonment, assault and or rape; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [52264/21]

729. Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice if she plans to bring forward legislation to revoke access and custody orders made by a court in cases in which a person benefiting from those orders is subsequently charged with serious offences such as false imprisonment, assault and or rape; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [52265/21]

730. Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice if legislation can be enacted to permit a party to family law proceedings to seek the immediate revocation of a custody or access order made by a court in cases in which a person benefiting from such order is subsequently charged with a serious offence such as false imprisonment, rape and or assault; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [52267/21]

731. Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice the protections that are in place for children in cases in which a parent who has access or custody rights over them is subsequently charged with serious offences such as false imprisonment, rape and or assault; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [52268/21]

Answer

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): I propose to take Questions Nos. 728 to 731, inclusive, together.
The Deputy will be aware that as Minister for Justice, I have no role in the making, variation or discharge of court orders in relation to guardianship, custody and access to children, or the imposition of conditions attaching to such orders. This is a matter for the courts, which are, subject to the Constitution and the law, independent in the performance of their functions.
The Guardianship of Infants Act 1964 sets out the current law relating to custody and access orders in line with Article 42A.4 of the Constitution, which requires that provision be made by law that in the resolution of all proceedings concerning the guardianship or custody of, or access to, any child, the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration. Very significant modernisation of the law in this area was brought about in 2015 with the enactment of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015, which amended extensively the 1964 Act. Section 31 of the Guardianship of Infants Act, inserted by the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015, sets out a wide range of factors that the court is required to take into account when making a determination in such proceedings. These factors include, where applicable, any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering, including harm as a result of household violence, and the protection of the child’s safety and psychological well-being. Section 31 specifies in relation to this particular factor that the court shall have regard to household violence that has occurred or is likely to occur in the household of the child, or a household in which the child has been or is likely to be present, including the impact or likely impact of such violence on:
(a) the safety of the child and other members of the household concerned;
(b) the child’s personal well-being, including the child’s psychological and emotional well-being;
(c) the victim of such violence;
(d) the capacity of the perpetrator of the violence to properly care for the child and the risk, or likely risk, that the perpetrator poses to the child.
Under Section 15 of the Domestic Violence Act 2018, a court dealing with domestic violence proceedings may also make orders under family law legislation without the need for separate proceedings to have been issued. This includes orders relating to access to a child under section 11 of the Guardianship of infants Act 1964. My Department is in the early stages of examining how we can address any policy gaps that may exist where a victim is engaged in parallel civil and criminal (domestic violence) proceedings arising from one incident, and what practical solutions we can offer protect the victim in these circumstances. This is a complex issue, taking into account that the courts involved are independent of each other. It is being discussed within the Family Justice Oversight Group and my Department is also in discussions with a number of NGOs on the matter. It is our intention to take action on this issue in the Third National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual & Gender Based Violence (DSGBV) Services, which is currently being developed with a view to its adoption at the end of the year. Question No. 729 answered with Question No. 728. Question No. 730 answered with Question No. 728. Question No. 731 answered with Question No. 728.