The judge overseeing the trial of two boys convicted of the murder of Anastasia Kriegel has refused to allow more than five journalists to attend the sentencing hearing next week.
Citing the need to protect the boys' rights, their physical and mental well-being, and their dignity, Justice Paul McDermott at the Central Criminal Court refused an application by RTÉ and various newspapers to increase the number of journalists who will be present in court.
He said that he had seen for himself the "considerable toll" that the court case to date has taken on the two boys and their families.
He said he decided to restrict the number of media in court based on his concern, "for the health, welfare and best interests of these children who face the most significant determination to be made in their lives".
He said the boys are under "enormous pressure" and restricting the number of journalists is necessary to ensure that the environment in court creates the "least interference to their dignity and welfare".
He further cited the United Nations Convention on Human Rights which says that a judge is entitled to restrict the number of journalists in court if it is in the interest of juveniles.
He said that the proceedings will be televised in a separate room beside the court and as many journalists as wish to attend can sit in that room. He rejected any suggestion that this puts a limit on the journalists' ability to report on what happens in court.
The two boys, referred to in the media as Boy A and Boy B, were 13 years old when they murdered Ana Kriegel in an abandoned house at Laraghcon, Clonee Road, Lucan on May 14, 2018. The boys, now aged 15, were convicted by unanimous jury verdicts earlier this year. Boy A was also convicted of Ana's aggravated sexual assault in a manner that involved serious violence to her.
Luan O'Braonain SC, acting for the media outlets, today told Mr Justice McDermott that the courts have established that the media is the "eyes and ears" of the public in court. Article 34 of the Constitution states that justice must be done in public and Mr O'Braonain said that viewing the proceedings in a separate room is not the same as being in the courtroom.
He added: "It does not allow the same opportunity to see, hear and feel."
Citing another judge of the High Court, Mr O'Braonain said that the press are the "eyes and ears of the public in court" and are not just there to report what is said but also anything "eccentric or unusual or apparently unfair."
It is not, he said, an exercise such as reading a transcript but "to be witnesses on behalf of the public in court." He said details such as emotional responses from the court, the legal representatives, the accused, their families and the family of the deceased all inform the public of the process.
He added: "It allows the public to experience the emotional experience of those in attendance, to have a better understanding of the serious impact of matters of this gravity."
He said such things can only be experienced by being in attendance. Mr Justice McDermott rejected the application and ordered Mr O'Braonain's clients to pay the costs of legal teams for the two boys to attend today's hearing.