Rape Crisis Network calls for urgent child sexual violence strategy

RCNI to discuss potential reforms and establishment of special family law court

Security issues in the Circuit Family Court in Phoenix House were recently  exposed when a Circuit Court judge  was taken hostage along with a lawyer and client.

Security issues in the Circuit Family Court in Phoenix House were recently exposed when a Circuit Court judge was taken hostage along with a lawyer and client.

 

The Rape Crisis Network of Ireland (RCNI) is to call for an urgent child sexual violence strategy as well as a special family law court when it appears at an Oireachtas committee on Wednesday.

The group will attend the Oireachtas Committee on Justice to discuss potential reforms to the family law system in Ireland.

It is expected to give its support to the establishment of a special family law court which it says is “long overdue”.

The RCNI is also expected to call for the sexual violence national strategy to ensure that a child victim of rape and incest “does not continue to be at risk of falling through the cracks”.

“Until we increase our family courts and allied child protection structures, transparency and accountability, children and their voice remain disturbingly silent and, indeed, potentially systemically and institutionally, under the sanction of our civil courts, contained,” the group’s opening statement reads.

The RCNI will also recommend that the Courts Service should gather and publish information on how many private family law cases involve allegations of child sexual violence.

This should be done “regularly as an imperative matter of justice and public interest”.

The Children’s Rights Alliance will also appear before the committee, and it too will call for a separate family court structure.

“The family law courts have not been designed with the presence of children and families in mind,” the organisation’s opening statement reads.

“Families are often at loggerheads and the physical environment does not provide them the necessary space and privacy to deal with very personal and sensitive matters.

“Judges are making decisions in courts around the country about intimate family issues often in the same room as they are dealing with other matters such as criminal law.”

It says children who are present in the court environs may witness or experience violence or other upsetting behaviour due to insufficient staffing of gardaí in courthouses.

“In addition, not all courts in the country have the facilities to provide the use of a television link for child victims and witnesses when giving evidence. We hear from our members that families themselves have highlighted the need for a separate family court structure to be established.”

Security issues

The Law Society of Ireland is also scheduled to appear and will highlight security issues in the current courts system.

It will state that there is “inadequate security, unsafe environment for litigants and unsafe working conditions for courts staff, lawyers and judges, [and] unsafe premises for family law in Dublin and nationwide as evidenced by the recent security issue on the 20th December 2018 when a Circuit Court judge in Phoenix House Dublin was taken hostage along with a lawyer and client”.

“The situation is particularly bad in Dublin as regards premises as the childcare courts are currently housed in Victorian criminal law courts which are not fit for purpose, the private district family law courts are held in Dolphin House which are not fit for purpose due to the numbers attending and the unsuitability of the premises,” its submission reads.

“The security issues in the Circuit Family Court in Phoenix House have recently been exposed. The promised new family law facilities at Hammond Lane appear to have stalled.”

That facility has been hampered by delays since the Courts Service announced plans to open the court a number of years ago.