Judge Conal Gibbons made his comments in the Dublin District Court, where he ruled that he needed to refer to the High Court an application from the media to cover a separate application by Daniel’s family.
The McAnaspies want to gain access to files on Daniel’s care in the HSE from his court-appointed guardian ad litem. That separate application, brought by Daniel’s sister, Catriona, has yet to be heard.
Separately, a number of media organisations, including the Irish Examiner, had applied to be allowed to cover the McAnaspies’ application, whenever it is heard. That would need the court to lift the in camera rule, which means matters of family law cannot be reported. The media’s applications had been opposed by the HSE.
Yesterday Judge Gibbons said he was unsure if he, as a district court judge, had sufficient jurisdiction over the matter and said he wished to receive instruction from the High Court.
He also recalled how Daniel, just 17 years old when he died, had appeared before him in court not long before he was murdered.
Daniel went missing in late February while still in the care of the HSE, and was last seen at a house in an estate in Blanchardstown.
His body was found in May dumped in a ditch in a field in Co Meath. He had been stabbed, possibly with a garden shears. No one has yet been charged in connection with his death.
Judge Gibbons said he wished to express his condolences and sympathy to Daniel’s family, some of whom were present in court, and stated that Daniel had encountered evil “at its most evil”.
“It is shocking and very disconcerting for us to consider that Daniel is no longer with us. He encountered evil at its most stark, at its most dangerous, and it extinguished his young life in a most brutal manner. This is a terrible event in any circumstances, but even more so when you place it in the context of Daniel’s short life.”
He said Daniel had attended the same court a short time before his death, and it had been expected that he would be back before it with his social worker and GAL. “This was not to be for reasons we all know.”
In his ruling, he said answers were needed to four key questions so that the applications by various media could be addressed in the High Court, including the status of Daniel’s Childcare Order.
He said there was a need to balance issues regarding freedom of expression and the equally important issues of a right to privacy.
Judge Gibbons said media organisations, including the Irish Examiner, had “commented responsibly” on the issues raised by cases such as that of Daniel McAnaspie, and had a “valuable and essential role” in reporting these issues. But he said there were also other issues at play, such as the Constitutional implications of a relaxation or lifting of the in camera rule.
The case will be mentioned in the District Court on October 27, at which time a number of outstanding issues will be addressed before it is moved to the High Court.