Concerns about recording of remote family law hearings ‘must be weighed against’ continuing justice

Keith Walsh
Keith Walsh

Concerns that parents could secretly record remote childcare hearings “must be weighed against the importance of cases continuing to be heard”, a leading family lawyer has said.

Speaking to Irish Legal News, solicitor Keith Walsh said he accepted that virtual hearings in the District Court “present very serious issues for potential breach of the in camera rule”.

A practice direction paving the way for family law cases to be heard remotely was issued in the middle of May, but The Irish Times reports today that some family law practitioners believe remote hearings increase the risk of parties breaching in camera rules.

However, Mr Walsh – who has produced a guide on remote hearings for the Dublin Solicitors’ Bar Association (DSBA) – stressed that the Courts Service and lawyers “have worked together to minimise potential breaches”.

For instance, clients who wish to have childcare cases dealt with remotely must attend the virtual court in the presence of their solicitor. “It is impossible to police cases where litigants do not have legal representation and it is likely that these cases will have to await personal hearings,” Mr Walsh said.

He added: “The in camera rule relating to family law cases, whether in person or virtually heard, depends on the litigants to a large extent not repeating details of what has happened in the courts. The virtual element involves a risk of breach but this risk must be weighed against the importance of cases continuing to be heard.”

Mr Walsh was involved in some of the first remote hearings for divorces on consent and noted there is “very little danger of breaches of the in camera rule in these cases”.

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