Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Questions (241, 242, 243, 244, 245)

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

244 Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if persons are waiting up to a year to receive a hearing date for emergency maintenance applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35475/12]

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Olivia Mitchell

Question:

246 Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of times, on average, maintenance application cases are adjourned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35479/12]

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Olivia Mitchell

Question:

247 Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the timeframe for the hearing of maintenance cases at Phoenix House family law circuit courts, Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35480/12]

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Olivia Mitchell

Question:

248 Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will consider creating an emergency interim system to address the high number of unheard maintenance applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35481/12]

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Olivia Mitchell

Question:

249 Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will quantify the backlog of family law hearings in each of the circuits of the District and Circuit Courts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35482/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice and Equality)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 244 and 246 to 249, inclusive, together.

As the Deputy will be aware, under the Courts Service Act 1998, management and administration of the courts, which includes the provision of statistics, is a matter for the Courts Service while the allocation of the business of the courts, scheduling of cases and management of lists are the responsibility of 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.

In the context of the Deputy's questions it should be noted that judicial retirements and promotions to other courts in the latter half of 2011 and earlier this year gave rise to up to 15 vacancies on the Circuit Court and the District Court. These vacancies, combined with absences due to illness and Tribunal work, added significantly to the already heavy workload of those courts and did give rise to added delays. However, I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the Government has moved as quickly as possible to fill the vacancies and both courts now have a full complement of judges appointed.

In addition, the Deputy will be aware that the Government, at its meeting on 17 July 2012, approved, in principle, proposals for a number of major reforms to our courts structures which will, in due course, require the holding of a Constitutional referendum. The proposed reforms would, if approved by the People in a referendum, facilitate the establishment of a new separate Family Courts structure.

In the meantime, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has advised me that statistics are not maintained on the number of adjourned maintenance applications. The manner in which an application is dealt with by the court is obviously a matter for the presiding judge. However I am assured that the Courts Service works closely with the judiciary to ensure that all cases are dealt with as quickly as possible.

The Courts Service has also informed me that urgent applications are dealt with at the next court sitting. In many Districts routine applications are dealt with at the next sitting in the area although this can vary considerably from one District to another. I understand that the new President of the District Court, who took up her appointment on 17 July, intends to assess all backlogs and waiting times with a view to seeing how cases can be dealt with more quickly.

The Deputy has enquired in particular about the position in relation to maintenance applications in Dublin Circuit Family Court and the Service has informed me that such cases are dealt with as part of proceedings related to an application for divorce or judicial separation. The normal waiting time in that court for motions related to maintenance is between two and five weeks. The Service has also indicated that it is not aware of a high number of unheard maintenance applications. If the Deputy wishes to contact my office with further details I will have enquiries made. Finally, the Courts Service has provided a detailed breakdown of the waiting times for Family Law hearings at Circuit and District Court levels which is as set out in the following tables.

Circuit Court Waiting times — end May 2012 (All waiting times shown in months)

Office

Family LawContested

Family LawNon-contested

Family LawAppeals

Carlow

12

Next sitting

12

Carrick on Shannon

6

Next sitting

Next sitting

Castlebar

Next sitting

Next sitting

Next sitting

Cavan

9

Next sitting

Next sitting

Clonmel

9-12

Next sitting

Next sitting

Cork

3-6

Next sitting

3-6

Dublin

4 months

4 weeks

1-5

Dundalk

9

3

6

Ennis

6

Next sitting

Next sitting

Galway

3

2

3

Kilkenny

Next sitting

Next sitting

Next sitting

Letterkenny

18

Next sitting

12-18

Limerick

Next sitting

Next sitting

Next sitting

Longford

6

Next sitting

3-6

Monaghan

Next sitting

Next sitting

Next sitting

Mullingar

6-9

Next sitting

3-6

Naas

24

Next sitting

Next sitting

Portlaoise

12-18

Next sitting

3-6

Roscommon

9

Next sitting

3-6

Sligo

9

Next sitting

6

Tralee

3-6

Next sitting

3-6

Trim

12

6

3

Tullamore

6-9

Next sitting

Next sitting

Waterford

6-12

3-6

12

Wexford

27-30

Next sitting

6-10

Wicklow

9

6

9

District Court Waiting Times May 2012 (All waiting times shown in weeks)

Family LawDomestic ViolenceApplications*

Family LawMaintenance/GuardianshipApplications

Athlone

2

4

Ballina

Next sitting

Next sitting

Bray

1-3

3-6

Carlow

12

12

Carrick on Shannon

Next sitting

Next sitting

Castlebar

Next sitting

6

Cavan

Next sitting

12

Clonakilty

2-4

2-4

Clonmel

4-8

8-12

Cork

24

24

Derrynea

Next sitting

3

Donegal

Next sitting

4

Dublin

10

10

Dundalk

1

3

Ennis

2

4

Galway

1

3

Kilkenny

2-4

4-8

Letterkenny

4

13-17

Limerick

3-5

8-12

Longford

1

4

Loughrea

Next sitting

4

Mallow

Next sitting

Next sitting

Monaghan

Next sitting

Next sitting

Mullingar

Next sitting

4

Naas

2

8

Nenagh

Next sitting

Next sitting

Portlaoise

Next sitting

8-12

Roscommon

Next sitting

Next sitting

Sligo

Next sitting

Next sitting

Tralee

4

4

Trim

4-8

6-8

Tullamore

Next sitting

4

Waterford

12

12

Wexford

Next sitting

6-8

Youghal

Next sitting

4-8

*Urgent interim applications are dealt with immediately i.e. on next sitting day in every District.