‘Child victim reporting ban can not go on’ says Jim O’Callaghan

4 February 2021 Extra.ie
‘Child victim reporting ban can not go on’ says Jim O’Callaghan Image
Child victim reporting JIM O'Callaghan

The Child victim reporting ban on naming a child murder victim once someone has been charged with the offence is ‘absurd’ and ‘extremely unfair’ on the victim’s families, the Dáil has heard.

Fianna Fáil TD Jim O’Callaghan said the restriction has led to ‘significant harm and damage’, and that it needs to be changed.

Last October, the Court of Appeal ruled that the Children Act 2001, which prevents the identification of a child when someone is charged with an offence against them, did not exclude a deceased child.

This has led to a significant change in the reporting of child murder cases – with victims not able to be named once someone is charged.

Deputy O’Callaghan, who is seeking to introduce an amendment to the Act, told the Dáil that Section 252 of the Act needs to be altered. He added that it was ‘never envisaged’ it would apply to a child that had been killed.

‘Up to 2019 there was no such understanding of the application of that provision, and never was it the case that children who had been killed were anonymised once the case came to trial,’ he said.

‘That has resulted in very significant harm and damage.’

The Fianna Fáil justice spokesman added that the restriction has caused ‘significant confusion’ among the public.

‘People are informed after a child has been killed, and that is correct because it is such a major issue in society,’ he said.

‘The public is informed and the child is named. However, once proceedings have commenced then the media cannot identify the name of the child.

‘It does lead to absurd situations where a child would have been named in the media for a period of days, then once an individual is charged… the child cannot be named anymore.’

Mr O’Callaghan added that it was unfair for families to go through this process whereby ‘the memory of their child is being airbrushed from history’.

He continued: ‘It is extremely unfair to families that this law is now operating as it is.

‘It is unfair to the memory of children that have been killed that we allow this law to continue.’

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said she intends to bring a memo to Cabinet next week to deal with the issue.