Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Department of Justice, Equality and Defence
Mary Lou McDonald (Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
Question 537: To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the long waiting times for family law cases to be heard in Donegal Circuit Court causing distress for vulnerable families; the actions he will take to address this and the county registers’ ongoing delays in performing their functions. [8424/12]
Alan Shatter (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Defence; Dublin South, Fine Gael)
The management and administration of the courts, as the Deputy will be aware, is a matter for the Courts Service. The allocation of the business of the courts, scheduling of court cases and the management of court lists are matters for the judiciary and in particular the Presidents of the courts. The Deputy will also be aware that judges are, subject to the Constitution and the law, 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 the waiting times for family law cases in Co Donegal are as follows: Contested hearings: 9-12 months Consent hearing: Next available court date Appeals: 9-12 months
The Court Service has informed me that in 2011 three weeks of family law sittings were held in Letterkenny and one week was held in Donegal. It is intended to allocate similar amounts of time to family law in 2012, however, the situation is being kept under review by the President of the Circuit Court.
Case progression hearings in family law cases are dealt with by the County Registrar. These hearings help ensure that when a case is listed for hearing before the court it is ready to proceed, they also help to minimise the costs of the proceedings for the individuals and maximise the use of court time. I am informed that in Donegal, there are currently 18 cases in the case progression process.
Where the parties to a case are experiencing an undue delay in arranging the hearing of their case they or their legal representative should contact their local court office to establish whether an earlier date would be possible.