Written Answers. - Family Law Courts.
57 Dr. McDaid asked the Minister for Justice whether she will establish family law courts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6658/97]
The Deputy will be aware that for some time now special court sittings have been arranged to hear family law cases.
The Programme for Partnership Government — A Government of Renewal — gives a commitment to complete the steps necessary to ensure that the family courts are strengthened. The Law Reform Commission in its report on family courts examined the best type of judicial/courts structure for dealing with family law and have recommended "a combination of structural and legal reforms together with a major injection of resources." My Department is studying the implications of these recommendations at present. The report will, it is expected, also be examined by the Working Group on a Courts Commission who are examining the courts system in general.
In the meantime, I have taken, and will continue to take, measures to improve facilities for hearing family law cases. For example, a major courts refurbishment programme is under way by my Department and an integral part of that programme is the provision of family law court facilities. These include separate courtrooms, consultation rooms and private waiting areas to meet the needs of those attending the courts in family law related matters.
Separate family law facilities are now available in Athlone, Arklow, Bray, Ballina, Ballinasloe, Clonmel, Cork District Court complex, Donegal, Dungarvan, Enniscorthy, Galway, Kilkenny, Loughrea, Waterford and in the District, Circuit and High Courts in Dublin. These facilities are being made available in all major refurbishment projects so that there will be a network of family law courts throughout the country which will be accessible to people in their own areas.
I am committed under this refurbishment programme to providing the best possible facilities with the resources available to me for the expeditious transaction of family law business.
In addition eight additional judges have been appointed to the Circuit Court since July 1996 and this has resulted in a substantial reduction in the length of time family law cases,inter alia, take to come to a hearing in the Circuit Court.