Covid restrictions pose challenges for hearing childcare cases

The Covid-19 crisis has posed challenges for the conduct of child protection proceedings in the District Court, particularly as it has meant restrictions on the numbers in the court when the case is being heard in the court-room, rather than remotely. In some cases has led to certain legal representatives and representatives of the CCLRP being excluded from the court.

On a number of occasions’ reporters with the Childcare Law Reporting Project were asked to leave court as the number of people in attendance exceeded the numbers allowed. The CCLRP was not able to report on an ECO hearing as the reporter was requested to leave while a Garda gave evidence, but she was told that she could return after the Garda gave evidence as he would leave after doing so, thus reducing the number in court.  However, the CCLRP could not report on the case as the reporter was not able to hear all of the evidence.

In an interim care order hearing the number of witnesses, legal representatives and the CCLRP exceeded the numbers allowable in court due to the restrictions. At the outset of the case the solicitor for the CFA told the court there have been instances in which legal representatives and the reporter for the CCLRP had been asked to leave due to the Covid-19 restrictions.

He told the court all parties should be in attendance, including the reporter for the CCLRP and that if the current court could not safely hold all in attendance then perhaps the Courts Service could find an alternative court that could. The judge in that matter asked the registrar to contact the Court Service and request that an alternative courtroom be provided that could accommodate all parties in attendance. An alternate courtroom that could safely accommodate all parties was obtained for the afternoon and the matter proceeded.