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Government TD says 'absurd' ban on naming child victims needs to end

Deputy O’Callaghan also wants Government to consider increasing the maximum sentence for knife crime.

Josh Dunne who suffered fatal stab wounds in an incident in East Wall, Dublin 1.
Josh Dunne who suffered fatal stab wounds in an incident in East Wall, Dublin 1.
Image: Bohemian Football Club

THE DEATH OF Josh Dunne has again raised the ‘absurd’ prohibition on naming a child victim once someone is charged with an offence, the Fianna Fáil Justice spokesman has said.

Deputy Jim O’Callaghan said he is pushing the Government to immediately bring forward a change to the Children’s Act to make it possible for media organisations to continue to name a child after the accused is charged.

A court ruling in October interpreted Section 252 of the Act to mean that the name of a child cannot be reported once court proceedings are initiated against an accused who has committed an offence against someone under the age of 18.

Deputy O’Callaghan said a clear example of the problem was in the case of Josh Dunne, 16, who was stabbed to death at East Wall on Tuesday. 

“I think legislation clearly needs to be changed, and I have made that known since this arose in October,” he told TheJournal.ie

No-one has been charged in connection with Josh Dunne’s case, but if it does happen, he will no longer be able to be named in ensuing media coverage. 

“It is an absurd situation that media organisations can publish details [but then] in a couple of hours we all have to stop that,” said O’Callaghan. 

“It also adds to the confusion of the general public who will have all the details associated with the crime and then see a story with the details that a man has been charged in connection to the death of a child in the inner city. People will automatically wonder has another child been killed.

“I think it is disrespectful to the boy and his family. It is as if they are erasing his identity,” he said.

Deputy O’Callaghan said that the purpose of the provision made sense in cases such as child sexual abuse but not in the prosecution of offences such as murder.

“There is an easy solution to amend the acts. I spoke to the Minister [for Justice] in early December, and she agrees that it needs to be changed. We need to expedite it, it is unfair on the family of deceased children. I also have a bill that I can introduce for the future which may cause this to happen at a faster rate,” he added.

The Fianna Fáil TD said that there has been a clear increase in knife crime and action must be taken to deal with this problem.

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“We need a really detailed and careful education programme for boys and girls on the danger of carrying knives,” he said. 

“There have been a number of cases, not just of Josh Dunne, where they were killed in instant fights involving knives and lives are destroyed.

“There needs to be consideration also of increasing the maximum sentence for possession of a knife under the Firearms and Offences Weapons Act which carries five years at present – that needs to change,” he added.

A previous attempt to increase the sentencing regime by Deputy O’Callaghan was not supported by the previous Government.

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