Spouse killers to be barred from profiting from sale of family home

Spouse killers to be barred from profiting from sale of family home
Eamon Lillis.

A husband or wife who kills their spouse will be unable to benefit financially from selling the family home under strict new laws set to be introduced by the Government.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan will outline the planned new rules in response to the Law Reform Commission’s recommendations as a result of a high-profile case earlier this decade.

In a weekly Cabinet meeting, Mr Flanagan will say anyone involved in the killing of their spouse must be blocked from making money from what happened.

Citing the December 2008 killing of Celine Cawley by her husband Eamon Lillis, Mr Flanagan will tell ministerial colleagues that a repeat of the situation cannot be allowed.

Under the existing 1965 Succession Act, a spouse involved in the killing of their husband or wife cannot inherit any part of their estate due to what happened. However, when the convicted person has held a joint tenancy, they automatically become the surviving joint owner of the property.

In a 2011 High Court case, Mr Lillis was blocked from receiving all of the funds from the sale after a judge ruled Ms Cawley’s share must be held on trust for their daughter Georgia.

And, in a bid to shore up the legal situation, Mr Flanagan will today table the Civil Liability (prevention of benefits from homicide) bill at cabinet, saying any ongoing questions over similar cases must be definitively answered.

The bill, which was initially put forward by Fianna Fáil justice spokesperson Jim O’Callaghan, will seek to ensure that anyone convicted of killing their spouse will be blocked from benefiting from the total proceeds from any sale of property.

In addition, it will extend the initial Fianna Fáil bill to include people who were involved in the finding a third party to physically perform the offence — an issue the Law Reform Commission rejected but which both Mr Flanagan and attorney general Seamus Woulfe believe is necessary.

Today’s cabinet meeting will also see ministers discuss potentially scrapping Ireland’s “summer time-winter time” system, Health Minister Simon Harris formally table the proposed post-Eighth Amendment referendum abortion laws and Communications Minister Denis Naughten raise the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s concerns over RTÉ’s dwindling finances.

However, for the second week running, sources said the Government’s long-flagged Airbnb restrictions will not be put forward amid internal ministerial row claims.

This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.

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