The District Court plays a significant role in licensing matters. See the separate chapters in relation to intoxicating liquor licences. The District Court powers are exercised in tandem with the Circuit Court. The District Court deals with more routine and regular licensing applications, while the Circuit Court deals with more fundamental matters, such as the grant of new licences.
Each District Court holds a licensing session to hear licensing matters. Each District Court holds an annual licensing court. A variety of applications must be made at the annual licensing court, including in particular confirmations of transfers of licenses and challenges to license renewals generally.
Most licenses are now renewed automatically by the Revenue Commissioners after the first year. However, a third-party may lodge an objection with the applicant and the annual licensing District Court (held in September) in which case the court will deal with the matter.
A wide range of originating applications in licensing matters, must be made to the District Court. These include applications for wine retailer’s off-license, restaurant certificates,
certain club registrations, transfers of licenses when a licence premises is transferred and certificates for spirit retailers, beer retailers and, wholesale beer licenses.
The licensing application to the District Court is almost invariably made on notice to Garda Síochána, the fire authorities and the court offices themselves. A newspaper notice is usually required. Many of the major licensing applications require publication of the application in a newspaper, so as to give the opportunity to third parties to object.
Applications for new licences commonly require publication of a newspaper notice in addition to notification to the Gardai and Fire Authority. The rules vary from license to licence.
Each particular licensing application will have its own criteria which the judge must assess. The notice to the Gardai, emphasises the public order element of licensing law. This will often be a key consideration. The character of the applicant, suitability of the premises, previous conduct will also be key considerations. Where there is no objection on the part of the relevant notice parties and no third party objectors, the licence application will usually be granted.
There are several provisions in the intoxicating liquor code for grant of exemption orders which allow extended opening hours. It must be shown that the relevant criteria apply. The court fees applicable to such applications are relatively significant in amount, relative to other court fee levels.
The District Court office maintains the register of licenses. This includes details of all licenses together with registration of relevant matters such as endorsements of criminal convictions, transfers and other matters.
Family & Child Care
The District Court hears applications in a wide variety of family law and child care matters. The District Court typically handles routine matters on a less formal and more economical basis. Family proceedings are generally held otherwise done in public.
The District Court shares its jurisdiction in relation to family matters with the Circuit Court. The circuit court deals with higher value matters and certain type of proceedings, including in particular, divorce and judicial separation.
The District Court has jurisdiction in applications for appointment of an unmarried fathers as guardians of their children. It may determine issues under the Status of Children Act in relation to parentage. It may order blood tests.
The District Court has jurisdiction under the Domestic Violence Act to make barring orders, interim barring orders and protection orders. The application can be made by a spouse, dependent person or the HSE.
The District Court has jurisdiction to make orders for maintenance of spouses, children and civil partners. It hears applications to vary and discharge maintenance orders. There is a limit of €500 per week for spousal maintenance €150 per week for maintenance for each child. Above this level, application must be made to the Circuit Court.
The District Court office has a special role in relation to collection of arrears of maintenance. Payments may be ordered to be made to the District Court office which may enforce collection on behalf of the maintenance creditor. The attachment of earnings procedure is unique to family law cases.
Where maintenance payments are not paid voluntarily, an application may be made to the court or an attachment of earnings order, which is directed to the maintenance debtor’s employer. The maintenance payments are made through the District Court office for the benefit of the maintenance of the maintenance creditor.
The District Court has power to regard a failure by a parent/spouse/civil partner to comply with a court order as contempt of court and to deal with it accordingly, including by means of imprisonment
The District Court in making a maintenance order can direct that the payment under the order be made to the District Court Clerk if the court considers that it would be proper to do so. The Circuit Court may as part of its order direct that a maintenance order is payable through the District Court. The District Court has a fully computerised payments system for the receipt and transmission of payments received.
The District Court plays a role in relation to enforcement of maintenance internationally. The District Court officers are designated as the primary office for the enforcement of maintenance orders against persons obliged to pay maintenance who are resident in the State. Beneficiaries of maintenance orders are entitled to assistance to enforce recovery of maintenance. The Central Authority, which is the Department of Justice may take steps to recover maintenance or may advise in relation to the means of enforcement available.
Where maintenance are instituted against a person resident in another jurisdiction, the application for enforcement is remitted to the District Court for service in the relevant country. The District Court office lists the application for hearing.
Childcare proceedings are generally initiated by the HSE or other interested parties and are made to the District Courts. See the chapters on child care proceedings.
Landlord & Tenant
The District Court has limited powers in landlord and tenant matter. Since the Residential Tenancies Act most proceedings relating to residential properties are brought to the Residential Tenancies Board.
Where a lease or letting has terminated by the expiry of the original term or by notice, application may be made for ejectment to the District Court. There are a number of distinct types of ejectment. Ejectment may be made on the basis of non-payment of rent. The annual rent must not exceed €6,750. A year\’s rent must be due before the procedure is available.
Ejectment proceedings may be brought on the basis of breach of the lease conditions. Non-payment of rent may constitute breach of condition depending on the terms of the lease. A lease may be forfeited for breach of condition. The term of the lease must be expressed to be a condition, as opposed to a covenant, if ejectment and forfeiture is to be available for breach.
The civil process must be served at least 15 days before the District Court sitting. The matter will only be heard if the dependant enters in appearance and dispute of the claim.
While the annual rent does not exceed €6,750, an ejectment based on overholding may be brought from the District Court. In this case, the basis of the claim is that the tenancy has determined.
The District Court has a role in relation to protected tenancies under the Housing Private Rented Dwelling Act. See our chapter on that legislation in our section on property.
Local Authorities may avail of special procedures under housing legislation in respect of housing provided by them in the course of their functions as housing authority. There are procedures for recovery of houses which have been let by the authority.
There is provision for application to the District Court for an excluding order, where the respondent is alleged to be engaging in anti-social behavior. An excluding order may prohibit the respondent from causing or attempting to cause any intimidation, coercion, harassment or interference with a tenant or other occupant of a house.
An application may be made by the authority, where having consulted the tenant and health authorities, it believe that the tenant may be deterred or prevented by violence from pursuing an application for an excluding order and that it is in the interests of good estate management and appropriate in the circumstances to apply for the order.
There is provision for a site exclusion order under the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act in respect to persons engaging in antisocial behavior. It is available to a housing authority or an approved body. See the section on housing. Similar provisions apply as apply to an exclusion order under housing legislation.
A wide variety of legislation makes provision for civil type proceedings in the District Court. A number of licensing schemes involve application to the District Court. These are broadly analogous to the principles and procedures under intoxicating liquor law. They include the following, which are dealt with in different sections of this work;
- Betting Act appeals;
- Gaming and lottery licence certificates;
- appeals in respect of house-to-house collections,
- control of dangerous dogs application,
- fire safety notices appeals,
- malicious injury compensation applications,
- planning law enforcements;
- environmental enforcement;
- applications in respect to food premises.