Thursday, 20 December 2018
Order of Business
I also want to speak about the incident that happened in Phoenix House earlier on today. I am glad to hear that the situation has ended. That is where the Circuit Family Court sits and as a practitioner in family law, I regularly attended Phoenix House and Dolphin House where the District Family Court is. I recall an incident three years ago where a judge was assaulted at around this time of year in Phoenix House. It really raises the question of the development of the combined new family law court at the Hammond Street site. We have been waiting for a number of years and every couple of months the Minister for Justice and Equality says he will give it the green light and it never happens and we are stuck here waiting for it to happen.
Family law is a very different type of law and tensions are particularly raised at this time of year. We are talking about families and people getting access and being denied access to their children and there are difficulties around grandparents and different arrangements. This situation happened in Phoenix House which it is not fit for purpose, nor is Dolphin House. Childcare matters are heard in the Bridewell court house and that is certainly not fit for purpose. We are waiting on this combined family law court in Hammond Street for a long number of years and it needs to happen now for the judges, the people using the Courts Service and the legal practitioners because we will continue to see incidents such as the one that happened today and the one three years ago in Dolphin House. It is simply not acceptable any longer for very important matters such as this, which affect the outcome of children's lives, to be decided in courtrooms that are not fit for purpose. All these proceedings happen in cameraand because of that people forget about the practitioners and the users of the Courts Service and the staff of the Courts Service who have to operate in these extremely difficult situations.
I would like the Minister for Justice and Equality to come to the House at some stage to have a debate on the development of the Hammond Street site. Given the incident today and the one three years ago in Dolphin House, we should really prioritise it and I would like to see it happen in early January.