Court upholds 'surprising' restriction on identifying mother who smothered her child

Court upholds 'surprising' restriction on identifying mother who smothered her child

In a written judgment the president of the court, Mr Justice George Birmingham, said it is "almost beyond argument" that the court proceedings were in respect of an offence against a child.

The Court of Appeal has rejected an application by several media outlets to be allowed to name a woman who smothered her three-year-old child to death with a pillow.

The woman was found not guilty of murdering her child by reason of insanity. Before her trial began High Court judge, Mr Justice Michael White, ordered that the deceased child should not be identified and, as a consequence, the woman cannot be named as to do so would identify the dead child. 

The judge said that, under Section 252 of the Children Act 2001, it was an offence to publish anything that could identify a child who is an alleged victim of an offence.

Media outlets had challenged that interpretation of the legislation, saying that the deceased was no longer a child.

Today, the three-judge Court of Appeal found that the judge had properly applied the law.

In a written judgment the president of the court, Mr Justice George Birmingham, said it is "almost beyond argument" that the court proceedings were in respect of an offence against a child. He said it is not possible to interpret Section 252 "as not including a deceased person who was a child at the time of death".

He went on to say that the same rule should apply to children who commit offences but reach 18 by the time they come to trial.

He accepted that the media may find the ruling "surprising" and a "radical departure from what had been a long-established practice". 

However, he added that the language in the Statute is "clear and unequivocal" and if change is required that is a matter for the Oireachtas.

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