In camera rule lifted; application for early hearing date refused- 2022vol2#46

There were two applications before the court: to lift the in camera rule regarding the court appointed advocate; and to seek an early hearing date for the following Friday.

The mother’s solicitor asked the court to formally lift the in camera rule in respect of the court-appointed advocate. The judge made the order as there was consent from all of the legal representatives involved.

The second application was made by the Child and Family Agency (CFA) which planned to seek an interim care order. They asked the court to allocate an early hearing date and to list the case on the following Friday. A guardian ad litem (GAL) had been appointed.

The request for the early hearing date was triggered due to an incident that had occurred at the weekend involving a two-year-old child. The child had lacerated her finger and had been taken to hospital. The mother had called the Gardai who came to the house. Concerns had been raised in relation to the condition of the property and of one of the bedrooms in particular. The CFA said that the mother had not been engaging and had refused to attend meetings with the social work team. The court heard that the GAL had met with the mother but that the advocate had not

The application was opposed by the legal representative for the mother on the basis that the advocate should have time to meet with the mother and discuss matters with her. The lawyer pointed out that while the Gardai were called to the house, they did not consider it necessary to invoke their emergency powers to take the children to a place of safety nor had they since. The out-of-hours social worker who had also attended had not brought an application for an emergency care order (ECO) either. The lawyer said “accidents happen” and the mother had attended the hospital. She also said that the mother was committed to redoubling her efforts to engage with the social work team. She said the mother had been overwhelmed with the frequency of the calls from the social work team.

The legal representative for the father indicated he had no instructions from the father but did say he was not agreeing to an earlier hearing date. He said he had not had an opportunity to arrange a telephone call or video call with his client. He said he thought the father would be in difficulty if the case was listed on Friday as the father was attending court in relation to another matter on Friday.

After hearing the applications, the judge said that there was a supervision order in place and as the advocate had not had an opportunity to meet with the mother he was not disposed to listing the matter on the following Friday. He said that the CFA could pursue the emergency care order avenue if a serious and imminent danger arose.