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Sam Boal
Court of Appeal

Bill to allow child murder victims to be named will be tabled next week

A Court of Appeal ruling has considerably changed certain long-standing practices with regards to reports of child murders.

LAST UPDATE | 9 Feb 2021

THE GOVERNMENT WILL table a bill next week that seeks to change the law to allow media and others report the names of child murder victims.

The issue has arisen as a result of a recent Court of Appeal decision about the reporting of certain murder cases. 

That ruling considerably changed certain long-standing practices related to how the media reports on child murders.

The Court of Appeal ruled last October that children who are killed in criminal circumstances cannot be named publicly after their death.

It led to a significant change in the reporting of child killings once a person is charged in relation to the offence, including restrictions on naming those charged if that could lead to the identification of the victim. A number of high-profile cases have been impacted in the intervening months. 

Families of children who have been killed have also spoken publicly about how the law has prevented them from speaking publicly about their child. 

A number of bills have been prosed to remedy the situation and Cabinet today accepted a Private Members Bill proposed by Senator Michael McDowell. 

The government will set time aside next week, subject to amendments, to table the bill. 

The government will amend the Bill to allow for the identification of a child to be published in any proceedings involving the death of a child.

The Bill will also allow the identity of a person accused to be published in proceedings involving the death of a child and the identity of an adult victim who was a child at the time of offence will also be permitted.

Fianna Fáil’s Jim O’Callaghan TD had also presented a draft Private Member’s Bill to the Dáil on the same issue.

O’Callaghan told the Dáil last week that the ruling preventing the naming of the child was “absurd” and unfair on the victim’s families.

The minister has met with Senator McDowell and Fianna Fáil TD Jim O’Callaghan and it is understood there is general agreement on the approach to be taken in dealing with the matter speedily.

“As soon as the impact of the Court of Appeal ruling was brought to my attention I committed to finding the most expeditious way of addressing the issues arising,” Minister McEntee said this afternoon.

The profoundly negative impact the ruling is having on grieving parents, unable to remember their deceased children’s names or legacies in public, is very clear to me.

“I am determined to work to change this as quickly as possible and to give parents back their voice so they can speak publicly about how they want their children to be remembered. This is only right and it is only fair.” 

The Court of Appeal had found that Section 252 of the Children’s Act 2001 has a much broader application than thought. It ruled that the reporting restrictions around naming children where an offence has been made against them, or where they are a witness, also apply in circumstances where the child is deceased or has turned 18.

In recent weeks, the minister promised to bring proposals to Cabinet to address the court ruling, saying that it was “wrong” that parents were caused pain by not being able to remember their child by name.

“Every child’s name must be remembered. No parent should be stopped from preserving the legacy of their children,” McEntee said.

“This is wrong and I will change it,” she committed last week.

McEntee was responding at the time to the mother of a murdered schoolboy who has called for a change to the law.

“None of us can imagine this mother’s heartbreak, and I offer my deepest sympathies to her. I will ensure the law does not cause her and other parents more pain,” McEntee said.

The mother, who also cannot be named because of the court ruling, appealed to the minister to fast-track plans to overturn the ban.

Her 11-year-old son was murdered in the south-west of the country. A man, 28, was sentenced to life in prison for his murder.

- With reporting by Rónán Duffy 

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