Disappointment as construction of family courts complex delayed again

Disappointment as construction of family courts complex delayed again

Keith Walsh

Family lawyers have been left disappointed by reports that the construction of the long-awaited family courts complex at Hammond Lane will not begin until 2026.

The Hammond Lane site was earmarked in 2014 for the development, which is intended to replace the existing facilities for family law at Dolphin House, Chancery Street, Phoenix House and in the Four Courts.

The timetable for the project has repeatedly slipped, despite hopes that the project would pick up pace after approval in principle by the Department of Justice in June 2022. The design plans for the building were approved in principle in November 2022.

However, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice has told The Irish Times that construction is now “expected to commence in 2026”, meaning that the project “would be completed in 2028”.

Family lawyer Keith Walsh told Irish Legal News that the latest delay is “very bad news for families who are forced to use the family law courts in Dublin”.

Mr Walsh, who heads a family law firm in Dublin, said: “While we are now informed that construction is due to begin in 2026, we have been here before as the start of construction has been postponed a number of times. What is more worrying is that no deadline has been confirmed for when the Hammond Lane family justice complex will be completed. Without a deadline, the delays can continue.

“The family law system in Dublin, which deals with families at their most vulnerable, whether for domestic violence applications, taking children into care applications, guardianship, access, maintenance or separation and divorce cases, is at breaking point due to the increased number of cases and the lack of a modern infrastructure to deal with the courts and also with the supports necessary such as mediation and ADR.

“The further delay in progressing a modern, fit-for-purpose family law court justice complex in Dublin impacts on a daily basis on those using the system whether they are families, judges, witnesses, court staff or lawyers. They deserve better.

“We know that family law cases have increased in recent years with applications for domestic violence orders and divorce in particular seeing a sharp increase. But over 50,000 family law cases were started in 2021 in the District Court which is currently housed in Dublin in a Victorian-era courthouse in the Bridewell or an overcrowded former hotel in Temple Bar called Dolphin House. Neither of these courts are suitable.”

He added: “If the government commitment to funding the Dublin family court is an indication of how resources will be applied to family law then the proposed new Family Court system will not work as without sufficient resources it will make things worse and not better. The failure to properly resource the Child and Family Relationship Act since 2015 has led to long delays in the District Court.”

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