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Reporting to be allowed on family law and child care court cases

New legislation will amend the in camera rule in courts, but will not allow the identification of the people involved.

Image: Brian Turner via Flickr/Creative Commons

NEW LEGISLATION IS to be introduced that will allow press access to family law and child care proceedings in court.

The Department of Justice said today that Minister for Justice Alan Shatter “intends to progress the preparation and enactment of legislation which amongst other matters will make court proceedings in family law and child care cases more transparent”.

The legislation will amend the in camera rule to allow press access to the courts in family law and child care proceedings. They will be subject to a strict prohibition on the publication of any material which would lead to the identification of the people involved, and care will be taken to ensure that the best interests of children are protected.

The purpose of the in camera rule is to protect the privacy of the parties concerned and to ensure that their anonymity and that of their children is fully preserved.

However, the department said that it has meant that such cases “are not generally reported and the public, and even practitioners may not be aware of how the law, particularly in relation to children, is being operated and applied in the different courts, before which such issues are heard”.

There is a public perception that undue secrecy is attached to the administration of this area of the law and that there is a lack of uniformity and consistency in the manner in which it is administered.

It is part of the Programme for Government that there be reform in the area of family law and this is one of a number of reforms under preparation.

In July of 2012, the Minister announced that the Government approved in principle a future referendum on Article 34 of the Constitution, which envisages, amongst other reforms the establishment of a unified structure of family courts to hear and determine family law disputes and child care cases.

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