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Ban on naming child murder victims ‘absurd’, Dáil hears

A ruling last year led to a significant change in the reporting of child murder cases once someone is charged in relation to the offence.

File image of TD Jim O'Callaghan.
File image of TD Jim O'Callaghan.
Image: Leah Farrell

A BAN ON naming a child murder victim once someone has been charged with the offence has been described as “absurd” and unfair on the victim’s families, the Dáil has heard.

Fianna Fáil TD Jim O’Callaghan said the restriction has led to significant harm and damage.

The Court of Appeal ruled last October that the Children Act 2001, preventing the identification of a child where someone is charged with an offence against them, did not exclude a deceased child.

It led to a significant change in the reporting of child murder cases once someone is charged in relation to the offence.

O’Callaghan told the Dáil that section 252 of the Children Act needs to be amended, saying that it was never envisaged it would apply to a child that had been killed.

He sought to introduce an amendment to the 2001 Act that would allow child murder victims to be named.

“It was never envisaged that the provision would apply in respect of a child that was had been killed and it never applied in that extent,” the Fianna Fáil justice spokesman said.

“Up to 2019 there was no such understanding of the application of that provision, and never was it the case that children who had been killed were anonymised once the case came to trial.

“That has resulted in very significant harm and damage.”

He said the decision has caused “significant confusion” among the public.

“People are informed after a child has been killed, and that is correct because it is such a major issue in society when a child is killed.

“The public is informed and the child is named, however once proceedings have commenced then the media cannot identify the name of the child.

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“It does lead to absurd situations where a child would have been named in the media for a period of days, then once an individual is charged in respect of a child’s death, the child cannot be named anymore.

“It is extremely unfair on the families of the deceased that they have to go through this process whereby the memory of their child is being airbrushed from history.

“It is extremely unfair to families that this law is now operating as it is.”

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said she intends to bring a memo to Cabinet next week to deal with the issue.

“It is unfair to the memory of children that have been killed that we allow this law to continue,” O’Callaghan added.

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