166. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of his plans for the establishment of a dedicated family court; and the reason for the delay in the project. [12596/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): It is my intention to publish proposals in 2019 for a new approach to handling family law cases in Ireland at District, Circuit and High Court levels. This will be done by legislation to create a new dedicated Family Court within the existing court structures. These courts will have new procedures aimed at less adversarial resolution of disputes and will have appropriate facilities and case management arrangements.
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. Once the General Scheme has been approved by Government, it will be referred to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for drafting and to the relevant Oireachtas Committee for pre-legislative scrutiny.
A working group was established in 2017, comprising officials from the Department of Justice and Equality, the Courts Service and the Legal Aid Board, to examine the operational aspects relating to the Family Court and develop an overall architecture for the new family court structure. The Department of Children and Youth Affairs and Tusla also participated in the working group. Key issues that arose in consultations included family court venues and facilities, resources and capital investment in family courts and integration of relevant family and child services to provide the best possible family law outcomes.
In 2018, a task force comprising senior officials from the Department of Justice and Equality, the Legal Aid Board and the Courts Service was formed to seek agreement on core questions of policy and costs. The work of this group is at an advanced stage. Issues being examined include court areas and locations, use of courthouses, provision of facilities and services, arrangements for management of resources, and oversight arrangements.
The Government is committed to building a new Family Law Centre and Children’s Court in Dublin 7. The Government’s Infrastructure and Capital Investment Plan 2016-2021 provides for a development at the Hammond Lane site including the development of a Family Law and Children’s Court. The project is to be delivered as a Public Private Partnership.
As the Deputy is aware, under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998 management of the courts, including the provision of accommodation for court sittings, is the responsibility of the Courts Service, which is independent in exercising its functions.
Discussions are ongoing with the Courts Service in regard to a number of issues including aspects of the funding proposal. In due course, the project would also require sanction from Department of Public Expenditure and Reform before it can proceed.