It is clear to me that the effect of Section 252 of the Children Act 2001, as recently ruled by the Court of Appeal ruling in DPP v. E.C. and Media Outlet, is having a profoundly negative impact on grieving parents who are unable to remember their deceased children’s names or legacies in public. Being unable to speak publicly about how they want their children to be remembered is wrong and I have committed to changing that.
I brought proposals to Cabinet this week to resolve this issue. I have secured Government approval to support a Bill in the Seanad presented by Senator Michael McDowell, subject to acceptance of the necessary Government amendments. The Bill is scheduled for second stage in the Seanad next week. Government time will be made available for committee stage in the coming weeks at which point the relevant Government amendments will be introduced.
I ask that all parties, across the Dáil and Seanad, co-operate in passing the necessary amendment to change Section 252 of the Children Act as quickly as possible in order to give grieving parents back the power to speak publically about their children. I am confident that with the cooperation of the members in both Houses we can have this legislation enacted before the end of March.
Of course any changes to the Children Act will have to be carefully considered to ensure they are consistent with the key principle of the best interests of the child. This is important as the section to be amended was designed to protect child witnesses as well as victims in the criminal justice process.
I understand that issues have also arisen on foot of the ruling regarding cases with respect to persons who were children at the time of the offence but adults when the proceedings were taken against the perpetrators. I am also working to address the effect of the ruling in the context of the legislative amendments that might be required to address this particular matter.
While I am determined to progress these changes as quickly as possible, it is important that in taking forward any legislative amendments, full consideration is given to all potential issues in order to avoid any unintended consequences the changes might give rise to.