‘Irish Times’ wins right to report on family law case

Child and Family Agency had sought to exclude media from hearings

The rules surrounding the privacy of childcare and family law cases have been relaxed from January this year, meaning reporterscan attend and report on such cases.  Photograph: Chris Maddaloni/Collins

The rules surrounding the privacy of childcare and family law cases have been relaxed from January this year, meaning reporterscan attend and report on such cases. Photograph: Chris Maddaloni/Collins

Thu, Jun 12, 2014, 01:03

A District Court judge has rejected an application by the Child and Family Agency to exclude The Irish Times from a court hearing involving a childcare case. The case centres on children who have been in care for a number of years. The Child and Family Agency and several other parties, including the children’s mother, sought to have media excluded from the hearing.

Under the Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2013, the rules surrounding the privacy of childcare and family law cases have been relaxed.

The law, which came into force in January this year, meant reporters could attend and report on such cases, but with strict criteria to ensure that no parties to the proceedings could be identified. The legislation also gave judges the power to exclude media in certain circumstances, or to restrict what evidence can be reported.

In this case, the judge said it would not be proportionate to exclude the media. He also said he believed none of the evidence before him had “seriously engaged” with the necessity for exclusion. However, he said he was satisfied it was not in the best interests of the children involved that the case be reported on “contemporaneously”.

Following legal argument, the judge also ruled The Irish Times could report on the legal process by which he made his decision. The hearing has been adjourned to a later date.