Saturday 18 August 2018

Judge imposes sweeping reporting restrictions on child welfare case as file prepared for DPP

The officer was taken to University College Hospital to be treated for non-life threatening lacerations
The officer was taken to University College Hospital to be treated for non-life threatening lacerations
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

A JUDGE imposed sweeping reporting restrictions on a child welfare case in which 11 people were arrested by Gardai.

Eleven people, five men and six women, were arrested by Gardai but subsequently released without charge.

All were questioned about the alleged abuse and sexual exploitation of children.

A file is now being prepared in relation to the Garda investigation for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

Judge Mary Larkin warned the media that strict reporting restrictions are in place over the matter and any breach of the court orders involved would result in serious consequences.

The judge issued the warning after an application from Tusla, the child protection agency, for clarity from the court in respect of previous orders made in respect of publicity over the ongoing case.

Muiris Gavin for Tusla asked for clarification given that orders were previously made by the court under Sections 28, 18 and 17 of the Childcare Act, 1991.

The Tusla request for clarification was supported by Thomas Wallace O'Donnell, for the Gardai, and by solicitors acting for the guardians of the children involved.

"There is no point in making such an order if the media is to trash and disrespect it," Judge Larkin said.

"This court expects the media to scrupulously comply with this order."

"This order was made to protect children."

"In this particular court, the children's court, (we are) solely concerned with the (protection of) family and the children."

Judge Larkin said careful consideration was given to balancing public confidence in justice and the protection of vulnerable parties.

"The court does not lightly make such an order," she said.

She said the court acts in the best interests of the child and children.

Judge Larkin warned that the media must be "vigilant and diligent" that nothing is ever published in the case which could lead to the identification, even by indirect means, of the parties involved.

"The court will not tolerate any breach of the order. There are consequences of breaching the order."

"I do require the media to be very careful about what they publish."

"The order is there to protect the most innocent and vulnerable of our citizens."

"The media must be aware this is rural Ireland. People are connected by by crèche, school and work."

"Jigsaw identification is a real concern," she added.

Judge Larkin said she was concerned about media coverage of the case over the previous 48 hours and, in particular, about specific geographic locations being identified.

Her order also extends to social media platforms.

Tusla raised specific concerns about some media reports having comment boxes available online - some of which were used for commentary which included specific material leading to identification concerns.

In response to a query from Tusla, Judge Larkin said she had no difficulty with the media reporting the hearing in respect of their responsibilities and existing court orders.

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