Category Archives: Recent Developments

Courts Bill 2013 – changes to the ‘in camera’ rule, and increases to District & Circuit Court awards

The government has today published the Courts Bill 2013, which proposes to change the law not just in relation to family law cases, but to the District and Circuit Courts in general.

Turning first to the impact on family law, it is currently the case in Ireland that family law matters are held in camera, that is, in private. The only people privy to the proceedings are the parties involved, any witnesses, legal counsel, and the judge. Under this new Bill, it is proposed that the in camera rule be changed to allow for “bona fide representatives from the Press” to attend and report on certain cases. However, the court will still have the power to prevent the media from being present and/or from reporting on certain details such as sensitive personal information, and nothing can be published or broadcast which might lead members of the public to identify the parties and/or children involved in the proceedings.

The reasoning behind the proposed change is to add an element of transparency to the family law process which, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter says, will “provide valuable information on the operation of the law in this area”.

Turning to the proposed changes to the District and Circuit Courts, the Bill aims to increase the maximum monetary award in the District Court from €6,384 to €15,000, and to increase the maximum Circuit Court award from €38,092 to €75,000 (though, in personal injuries cases, that award will be capped at €60,000).

The practical effect of this, it is envisaged, will be a reduction in legal costs. For example, as it currently stands, if a party wishes to claim for a sum of €40,000, he will have to begin his proceedings in the High Court, thus attracting High Court legal costs. If the maximum award was increased, however, he could then bring his claim in the Circuit, thus only subjecting himself to costs at that lower level.

The full text of the Bill can be found here.

What do you think of the proposed amendments to the in camera rule? And to the proposed increase of maximum monetary awards in the District and Circuit Courts?

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The Magdalene Laundries Report

Today, the long-awaited ‘Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee to establish the facts of State involvement with the Magdalene Laundries’ was published. And it makes for grim reading.

 

Some figures from the report

  • Number of women who spent time in the laundries since 1922: 10,012 (this figure excludes the two laundries run by the Sisters of Mercy)
  • Average age at time of entry: 23.8
  • Age of youngest known entrant: 9
  • Age of oldest known entrant: 89
  • Deaths occurring in the laundries from 1922: 879 (this figure excludes the two laundries run by the Sisters of Mercy)
  • Age of youngest at time of death: 15
  • Age of oldest at time of death: 95

 

You can find the link to read the entire report on the justice.ie website here.

 

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I have a HMV voucher – what can I do?

Most of us are now aware that HMV has gone into administration. What many of us do not understand is what exactly this means, particularly in light of growing frustration over the inability to spend gift vouchers.

 

So what does administration mean? In basic terms, it means that a company is no longer financially viable and, as such, the right of creditors to be paid is suspended until the administration process is complete.

 

A ‘receiver’ is appointed — that is, an individual or agency will take over the management of the company in order to assess the company’s financial situation and its future viability. Essentially, it will examine the cost structure of the company and endeavour to come up with a ‘rescue plan’.

 

If the administration process is successful, the courts will ask the creditors of the company to approve the plan. If so approved, the company will continue to operate based on this new plan. In practice, this usually means that a portion of the company’s debts will be written off and creditors will only receive a percentage, if anything, of the monies owed to them. If the process is unsuccessful, the company will likely go into liquidation. In other words, the company will cease to exist.

 

In the Republic, Deloitte Ireland has been appointed as receiver for HMV. The administration process is underway and the right of creditors to be paid has been suspended. The owner of a gift voucher, being owed a debt by the company, is considered a creditor. (This also applies to anyone who wishes to return an item to the company, though they may still have recourse with the manufacturer of the product if the item is faulty.)

 

In summary, if you hold a HMV gift voucher, your right to spend that voucher has been suspended until the administration process is complete. In reality, though by no means definite, there is little likelihood of your voucher ever being worth its full value.

 

So what can you do? At this moment in time, you could contact the receiver to ensure that you are on the list of the company’s creditors. In that way, you will have a say in any proposals or plans that are put forward by Deloitte at the end of the process. How that process will end is, at present, anyone’s guess; however, the situation is a serious one, and is unlikely to have a happy conclusion for the retail giant. Or for its creditors.

 

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Children’s Referendum – Proposed Thirty-First Amendment to the Constitution


The wording of the long-anticipated Children’s Referendum was finally released at 11.30am on September 19th 2012.  The exact wording, which appears on the website of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, is as follows:


Proposed New Article 42A

Children

1. The State recognises and affirms the natural and imprescriptible rights of all children and shall, as far as practicable, by its laws protect and vindicate those rights.

2. 1° In exceptional cases, where the parents, regardless of their marital status, fail in their duty towards their children to such extent that the safety or welfare of any of their children is likely to be prejudicially affected, the State as guardian of the common good shall, by proportionate means as provided by law, endeavour to supply the place of the parents, but always with due regard for the natural and imprescriptible rights of the child.

   2° Provision shall be made by law for the adoption of any child where the parents have failed for such a period of time as may be prescribed by law in their duty towards the child and where the best interests of the child so require.

3. Provision shall be made by law for the voluntary placement for adoption and the adoption of any child.

4. 1° Provision shall be made by law that in the resolution of all proceedings –

          i brought by the State, as guardian of the common good, for the purpose of preventing the safety and welfare of any child from being prejudicially affected, or

          ii concerning the adoption, guardianship or custody of, or access to, any child, the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration.

   2° Provision shall be made by law for securing, as far as practicable, that in all proceedings referred to in subsection 1° of this section in respect of any child who is capable of forming his or her own views, the views of the child shall be ascertained and given due weight having regard to the age and maturity of the child.

(See here for the wording ‘as Gaeilge’.)


The Referendum itself will take place on Saturday November 10th 2012. If passed, the wording will be inserted into the Irish Constitution as Article 42A. Information leaflets will shortly distributed to households across the Republic.

What are your initial reactions to the wording?


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European Court of Justice rules – more holidays if you fall ill during your holidays

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled this week that an employee who falls ill while on paid annual leave is entitled to a further period of paid annual leave of the same duration as the sick leave, irrespective of when the employee fell ill. For example, if an employee were to take ten days’ annual leave, but were to fall ill for three days during that leave, s/he would be entitled to a further three days’ annual leave at a later point in time. Continue reading

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