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court ruling Ban on naming child murder victims 'gags the voiceless'

"We can't speak their names. We can't see their names and we can't campaign for what we want."


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FAMILIES who have lost children to homicide are being "retraumatised" as a result of a court ruling on the identification of young victims.

This is the view of a victims' rights campaigner whose sister and two nieces were murdered several years ago.

The man, who cannot be named because it could lead to the identification of the children, said the court decision had "come out of the blue" and had "gagged" families who want to keep the memories of loved ones alive.

His comments come ahead of tomorrow's Cabinet meeting where plans to address the issue are expected to be discussed.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee is expected to seek Government approval to support a bill tabled by Senator Michael McDowell to rectify the issue.

The bill would amend Section 252 of the Children Act 2001, which provides mandatory and automatic reporting restrictions in the case of "any proceedings for an offence against a child".

Last October, the Court of Appeal found that these prohibitions extend to children who had died or since turned 18.

The impact of the ruling was recently seen when the name of a 16-year-old boy who had died in a stabbing incident could no longer be reported after a man was charged with his murder.

A District Court judge also prohibited the identification of the accused in the case, but another judge decided not to renew the order last week when it was demonstrated there was no link between the accused and the deceased.

The victims' rights campaigner said "serious questions" needed to be asked as to why the legal issue was not spotted before last October.

He said the prohibition on the identification of his nieces had "added insult to injury" and questioned why it was taking so long for the legislation to be amended.

"It is just another sad episode in the State being compliant in retraumatising families and not supporting them," he said.

He contrasted the situation with the row over the licensing of Garth Brooks concerts in 2014, when some politicians expressed a willingness to work overnight to introduce emergency legislation.

"What is taking so long to change this situation where the voices of the voiceless are being gagged?" he said.

"We can't speak their names. We can't see their names and we can't campaign for what we want."

He said that around the anniversary of the killings family members would take the opportunity to speak publicly on radio and in newspapers to keep their memory alive.

Ms McEntee has spoken of her intention to rectify the situation and said in recent days she hopes this can be done "in a matter of weeks".

Should proposals be passed by Cabinet it is likely Government time in the Seanad will be given over to allow Mr McDowell's bill to be introduced next week.

After it clears the Seanad, the minister intends to make some amendments at committee stage.

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