The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr Alan Shatter TD has published the Courts Bill 2013.
The Bill seeks firstly, to modify the in camera rule which prevents members of the public, including the news media, from being present in court when family law and child care proceedings are being heard. Secondly, the Bill seeks to increase the monetary jurisdiction limits of the Circuit and District Courts in civil proceedings.
The amendment of the in camera rule comes as part of a commitment made in the Programme for Government to reform and modernise certain aspects of family law. The Bill aims to satisfy both the need for privacy for persons involved in family law and child care proceedings and the need to ensure access to important information on the operation of family and child care law in our courts.
Commenting on this aspect of the Bill, the Minister said, “These reforms are long overdue. Media access and reporting of cases will add transparency to the conduct of family law and child care proceedings and will provide valuable information on the operation of the law in this area”.
As regards the jurisdiction limits of the courts, the Bill proposes to increase the monetary limits on the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court and District Court in civil proceedings to €75,000 and €15,000 respectively.
The current monetary jurisdiction limits have remained unchanged since the coming into force of the Courts Act 1991 and stand at €38,092 and €6,384 respectively.
According to the Minister, “It is crucial that parties involved in legal conflict do not incur more legal costs than are necessary in circumstances in which they have to resort to litigation. It is also important that our court jurisdictions keep substantially in line with inflation and that our higher courts are not unnecessarily overburdened with appeals that could and should be properly dealt with at a lower level.”
He believes that changing the limits “should ultimately lead to a reduction in the burden of legal costs for individuals and companies involved in litigation”.
The Courts Bill 2013 is available on the Houses of the Oireachtas website: www.oireachtas.ie