Families of children killed in violent crime will be able to name loved ones by May 3

Justice minister expects Children Bill to be passed by the Seanad and signed into law shortly thereafter
Families of children killed in violent crime will be able to name loved ones by May 3

Justice Minister Helen McEntee said she expected the law would be passed on Monday and the President could then sign the bill, whereupon she would sign the commencement order. Picture: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

Families of children killed in violent crimes will once again be able to name their loved ones from May 3 at the latest, justice minister Helen McEntee has said.

Ms McEntee said today that she expects the Children Bill would be passed in the Seanad on Monday, and the President would then have seven days to sign the bill, but that it could be signed sooner.

Once that happened, Ms McEntee would sign a commencement order and, at the very latest, the law would change by May 3.

'A difficult time' for the parents

Commenting on the issue, Ms McEntee said: “I'm really pleased to say that at the latest by May 3, those families who haven't been able to speak about their children — it's been a really difficult time for them — they will be able to once again speak about them.”

“I have legislation that has to go to the Seanad for final stages on Monday. Once passed, I will send it to the President who will have seven days to sign the commencement order, but he may do it sooner,” she said.

“As soon as he does that, I will sign the commencement order to say that, seven days later, this will come into effect. So at the very latest this will be in place by May 3, but there's a potential that it may happen sooner,” the minister added.

Appeal by media rejected

The Government was forced to introduce fresh legislation after the Court of Appeal rejected an application by several media outletsto be allowed to name a woman who smothered her three-year-old child to death with a pillow last October.

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.

'A matter for the Oireachtas'

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

However, 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 accepted that the media may find the ruling "surprising" and that, if change were required, it was a matter for the Oireachtas.

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