Media outlets deny breaching children's rights in sex-case reports

Three media outlets have denied that the constitutional right to privacy and right of anonymity of two young victims of sexual abuse was breached in reports they carried about the conviction of the children's attacker.

The two who were abused by a male, who more than two years ago admitted to charges of rape and sexual assault against the two, claim that their identification had a catastrophic effect on them which resulted in them having to leave their home. The High Court has ruled that the two children in question cannot be identified for legal reasons.

However today the High Court heard that in their defence the defendants argue that the articles and material broadcast did not breach the right of privacy or the children's right of anonymity.

The reports, it is claimed, did not contain details such as where the offences took place, the ages of the victims, their relationship to each other and did not include any reference concerning the relationship between the abuser and his victims.

In the action, before Mr Justice John Hedigan, the children have sought damages against the three outlets, two newspapers and one radio station over reports they used in 2006 when their attacker pleaded guilty to offences of rape and sexual assault at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin.

They claim that details in the reports and broadcasts, including the name, age and address of the convicted man as well as the dates when the offences occurred, resulted in their being widely identified in their locality.

In their action they claim the defendants published and broadcast information to the public without authority and were in breach of sections 7 and 8 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1981, which grants the right of anonymity to victims and or complainants in criminal cases involving offences of a sexual nature.

The children further claim that their identification caused them considerable distress, upset and embarrassment.

On the second day of the action, the court heard that the defendants have denied the children's claims that they were identified by the articles in question and deny that the three media outlets were in breach of the law.

The defendants further deny that the children's constitutional rights were breached in the information which was published and broadcast.

Today, two neighbours of the children told Peter Finlay SC for the children that after the material concerning the man's conviction was published, they were able to identify who the victims were. The court heard that the children lived in a small community.

However under cross examination from Oisin Quinn SC for the defendants, both neighbours accepted that the reports did not contain details about the victims, including the age and relationship to each other, not did they disclose the location of where the offences took place.

The case continues.

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