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Question

242. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when a case (details supplied) will be heard; and the protocol and timeframe for hearing ceases in which family disputes and welfare issues are raised. [8427/18]

Answer

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As the Deputy will be aware, under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service, which is independent in exercising its functions. Furthermore, the scheduling of court cases and the allocation of court business are  matters for the Presidents of the Courts and the presiding judges who are, under the Constitution, independent in the exercise of their judicial functions.
However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has advised that it would not be appropriate to comment in relation to an individual case before the Courts. The Courts Service has informed me that the Presidents of the Courts monitor waiting times and workload across all court lists and seek to ensure the optimum use of court time and judicial resources. Wherever possible, the Presidents target additional judicial resources at the areas of greatest need.
In terms of timeframes generally, domestic violence applications are prioritised in all District Courts throughout the country. Applications such as Protection Orders are prioritised in the District Court and are usually granted where the Court so decides on the date the application is made to the Court. Typically interim barring orders, which are also an emergency application, are also made ex parte and granted on the date of application. There are, therefore, no delays in dealing with such applications. Applications for Barring Orders are prioritised within court lists and a decision is generally made on such applications on the first listing date. Where adjournments occur they are generally granted at the request of one or both parties.
The Courts Service has advised that delays in the hearing of cases can arise from a number of factors, some of which can be outside the control of the courts and the Courts Service, for example, the unavailability of a witness or vital evidence, delays in the furnishing of reports or because the parties and/or legal practitioners are not ready to proceed on allocated dates. This gives rise to adjournments which can have an impact on the time taken to complete the hearing of a case and on the number of cases which can be disposed of in a court sitting. Most adjournments are sought by parties to a case.
The Government is committed to significant reform of the courts, including the establishment of a family law court structure that is streamlined, more efficient, and less costly. My Department is currently working on the General Scheme of a Family Court Bill which will aim to streamline family law court processes, clarify jurisdictional issues and provide for a set of guiding principles to help ensure that the Family Court will operate in a user-friendly and efficient manner. The intention is to establish a dedicated Family Court within the existing court structures. The Family Court Bill will support the provisions in the Mediation Act 2017 by encouraging greater use of alternative dispute resolution to assist in more timely resolution of family law cases.