Monday 19th April 2021
Essential Children’s Bill remedies legal oversight
Independent Senator Michael McDowell has succeeded in passing his Children (Amendment) Bill 2020 through both Houses of the Oireachtas. The Bill, first introduced in November last year, allows for child victims of alleged homicide to be named in broadcasts and publications.
The urgent need for this legislation was made clear in the ruling of the Court of Appeal in DPP v EC and Media Outlets, which prohibited parents from speaking publicly about their deceased child in cases where the child was unlawfully killed.
The presiding judges stated that this was their legal interpretation of section 252 of the Children Act 2001, whose prohibition on broadcasts relating to children did not exclude a deceased child, the victim of an alleged offence.
In the handing down of the judgement, Mr. Justice Birmingham stated;
“If change is required and if it is desired to return to previous practice where it was possible to report cases involving the deaths of children, then it is a matter requiring intervention by the Oireachtas.”
Senator McDowell had drafted the necessary legislation to rectify this unintended effect of the law, which led to a collaborative process between the Senator, Minister Helen McEntee and Deputy Jim O’Callaghan as the Bill moved through both Dáil and Seanad Eireann.
Speaking at the Bill’s introduction, Senator McDowell said;
“It is a huge injustice to the parents of a child who is killed in a homicide that media cannot carry coverage of the fact… it is a major reduction in the rights of apparent free speech and the rights of parents to tell their story in public and to express their tragic loss.”
Having now passed both Houses, the Bill will be signed into law by President Higgins, at which stage the naming of child victims will return to legal status.
Speaking today, Senator McDowell said;
“I wish to express my happiness at the passing of the Bill this afternoon which solves an anomaly created 20 years ago. I believe that an important balancing of rights has been achieved today.”