826. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice if family law court cases will be allowed to proceed even online, given these cases are often concerning the welfare of children and so on and should be viewed as a priority (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17293/21]
Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): 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 informed me that, since January, Courts have remained open for urgent matters in areas of family law, criminal matters (especially cases involving people in custody), bail and urgent Judicial Reviews or Article 40 applications. Judges are available to deal with urgent matters when required and have, in circumstances where it is possible to use technology and the Court feels it is appropriate, dealt with matters remotely. It is a matter for each Court to evaluate cases before it to decide how to proceed and whether they are suitable for remote hearing.
In family law matters, I am advised that there are concerns to ensure that the in camera rule would not be breached, so that there is no undue influence at play or that matters are not recorded. To safeguard against this, parties to remote proceedings must attend the offices of their legal representatives to participate in remote hearings.
The situation is being kept under active review in light of the current restrictions. Any applications for a remote or physical hearing in respect of urgent matters can be made to the Judge in charge of the Family Law list as the need arises.