Fitzgerald defends ‘robust’ in camera rule in family law proceedings

Fitzgerald defends 'robust' in camera rule in family law proceedings

The in camera rule in family law cases is “sufficiently robust” and not in need of review, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has said.

Responding to a question in the Dáil, Ms Fitzgerald said she was satisfied with the changes made under the oversight of her predecessor, Justice Minister Alan Shatter.

The Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2013 allows members of the press to be present in court during family law and child care proceedings and to report on them, subject to strict conditions.

Ms Fitzgerald said: “This reform of the in camera rule was made to enable the media, researchers and legal professionals to gain access to valuable information on the operation of the law in this area.

“We have all seen the results of this change in the form of increased coverage of family law proceedings in both print and other media.

“This coverage has proven in the round to be very responsible, in that while public interest issues have been highlighted for debate, this has been done in such a way as to protect identities of individuals involved.”

Under the Act, it remains open to the court to exclude representatives of the media from the court or otherwise restrict their attendance during the hearing or parts of it, or restrict or prohibit the publication or broadcasting of evidence given or referred to during the proceedings.

The Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 also prohibits the publication or broadcasting of any information which would be likely to lead members of the public to identify the parties to family law proceedings or any children to whom the proceedings relate.

Ms Fitzgerald added: “I am satisfied that these provisions are sufficiently robust and that there is no need at the present time for a further review of the in camera rule in family law cases.”

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