I am welcoming the publication of the Courts Bill 2013. The Bill, if passed will modify the ‘in camera rule’ which prevents members of the public, including members of the press, from being present in court when family law and child care proceedings are being heard.
I am pleased that the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has taken this proactive step, the ‘in camera’ rule has been in need of modernising for some time now.
This Bill aims to provide a balancing act between the need for privacy for persons involved in family law and child care proceedings and the need to ensure transparency regarding the information on the operation of family and child care law in our courts.
Of course the anonymity of the families involved will be of the greatest importance and the best interests of the child will also be considered at every stage of the process.
Under this Bill, the courts will keep the necessary privacy provisions while allowing for the attendance of members of the media. This would allow public to gain an acute understanding of the process in these types of cases.”
However, the courts will of course still have the power to exclude representatives of the press or restrict the publication of evidence given in the proceedings in certain circumstances. This includes the reporting of material which is likely to identify the parties to the proceedings or any children involved.
It is of crucial importance that the media have access to and can report on family law cases where appropriate. This will add transparency to the conduct of family law and child care proceedings.
I look forward to debating this issue in the Seanad and I wish to ensure that we achieve the right balance between the public interest and the right to privacy in cases of family law.