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Court ruling

Mother banned from identifying murdered son (11) calls on minister to change law on naming children killed in criminal circumstances

“I’m proud of my son, I want to be able to tell the world about him.”

A MOTHER WHOSE 11-year old son was murdered in the south west of the country has made an emotional appeal to the Minister for Justice to fast-track plans to overturn a legal ban preventing the identification of children who have died as a result of a criminal offence. 

The mother, who cannot be named because of the “hurtful” ban, said she wanted to be able to identify her son publicly, so his memory would “not be forgotten”, and so that the killer “would be known for what he has done”. 

The accused, who has pleaded guilty to the boy’s murder, is due before the central Criminal Court tomorrow, 1 February, when it is expected that he will be sentenced to the mandatory term of life imprisonment.

The ban on identifying child victims came into force last October when the Court of Criminal Appeal ruled that Section 252 of the Children’s Act applies even after a child has died.

“I don’t think there is any benefit to [my son] from it, I think it is more beneficial to the [accused]. We are not allowed speak publicly about [my son] – it’s like his identity is just gone and brushed under the table,” said the mother.

“We can’t talk about him and live on his legacy and his memory, and it’s very painful. It’s like everything is against the victims and everything is going in favour of the man that did this to [my son]; it just seems very unfair.”

The mother said the devastating loss of her son has been hard enough to cope with, but that the legal ban has only added insult to her son’s memory, “It’s like [he] didn’t exist.”

Prior to the enforcement of the ban, the mother received much-needed support from another parent whose children had died in similar circumstances and whose story had been highlighted in the media. 

However, she fears this type of peer support from other parents is being jeopardised by the ban: “There is no support for the victims families, and god-forbid this happens to other parents.” 

“I could contact this other mother and ask her for advice, and she understood what I was going through. I thought I was going mad but she was able to help me understand what I was thinking and feeling was actually normal; she could identify with a lot of it.”

“Around Christmas time, she was a massive help to me, and I think it’s good that we have been able to support each other. The fact now, that we can’t be identified and that our children can’t be identified, is putting a stop to all that for others, perhaps.”

The woman said the ban has also made her feel like she is “hiding what happened to [her son], it would remind you of years ago of women being shipped off after having babies”.

Calling on Minster Helen McEntee to act fast on overturning the ban, she said: “I’m proud of [my son], I want to be able to speak about him, I want to be able to tell the world about him.” 

“He had so many good qualities, he was so funny, a messer, always happy. In school he was the teacher’s pet, he was a loveable little rogue, and he loved all sport, boxing, soccer, jogging, and animals and nature.”

 “I don’t want him to be forgotten,” she said.

A spokesperson for the Justice Minister said McEntee is “committed” to addressing the main issues of concern arising out of the interpretation of Section 252 of the Children Act 2001 by the Court of Appeal, and was canvassing legal advices on “how best to resolve the issues arising from the decision of the Court of Appeal”.

“Detailed discussions are ongoing, on how this can be done as quickly as possible. Consideration will also have to be given to any changes to ensure they do not result in unintended consequences and are consistent with the key principle of the best interests of the child,” the spokesperson said.