A RETIRED judge has slammed a proposal to move family law cases to the city which, he says, will cause unnecessary hardship for many people in West Cork.
Former judge Con O’Leary said the Department of Justice and the Courts Service are in the process of putting in place a system of regional family courts because the facilities in ordinary country district courts are totally inadequate.
‘They mean very well,’ said Con O’Leary, ‘but the effect of this on people in the more remote parts of the country does not seem to have been taken into account.
‘It seems it is their intention to bring in the family law business from the district courts from Youghal, Mallow and West Cork into these already overcrowded and inadequate facilities,’ he said, ‘and people involved at the lowest level of family law will need to have their cases heard in Cork, except in cases of urgent applications – without notice to the other party – for protection orders and interim and emergency barring orders.
‘I believe that the people in the more remote parts of West Cork should know about this and raise it with their public representatives in the Oireachtas,’ he added.
The proposal has been approved by the cabinet but has not yet been introduced because it is first undergoing pre-legislative scrutiny.
‘I find it hard to believe that the people who drafted the Bill appreciate the inconvenience this is going to cause to persons undergoing the trauma of family law proceedings in West Cork,’ the former judge stated. The Courts Service has responded, saying that they cannot provide the facilities to an acceptable standard at every crossroads, but the former judge argued that West Cork is unique in terms of distance.
‘This is without regard to the fact that the present facilities in Cork city are totally inadequate for family law in any case,’ he added.
‘They don’t provide sufficient consultation rooms, or privacy, and the family law court is overwhelmed by the business it has. People have to stand in the vicinity of other parties in the public waiting area for their cases to be heard.’
Marie Mulholland of West Cork Women Against Violence Project also made the point that the WCWAV budget would have to be increased in order to accompany people to the family law courts in Cork city. ‘These decisions are made in the capital without any knowledge of the territory that has to be covered in rural areas,’ said Ms Mulholland.