Saturday 20 January 2018

Judge allows limited reporting in key surrogacy court case

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

THE genetic parents of two young children born to a surrogate are taking a landmark legal action to be registered as the children's parents on their birth certificates.

Details of the case can now be revealed after the country's most senior family law judge has lifted a blanket ban on media reporting of the action.

The surrogate mother is supporting the couple's application for declaration of parentage, but the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of the Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages have opposed their bid to be declared the children's parents on their birth certificates.

Yesterday, Mr Justice Henry Abbott issued an order, revising an earlier ruling in which he excluding the media from reporting the groundbreaking case, setting out the terms under which the case may be partially reported.

The reporting ban was initially imposed by Judge Abbott following legal submissions by the Irish Independent and the 'Sunday Times', which argued that the case has "serious implications for the public interest".

The papers, which were joined in their application yesterday by 'The Irish Times', stated at the outset that they did not wish to publish anything that would identify or would tend to identify the parties.


The papers also undertook not to cover the private evidence of the parties.

The Office of the Attorney General had opposed any reporting of the case, which involves applications under the Status of Children Act 1987 and the Guardianship of Infants Act 1964, and will be heard in private.

However, following fresh legal submissions, designated reporters from the Irish Independent, the 'Sunday Times' and 'The Irish Times' – as well as a member of the High Court press pool – will be allowed to report part of the proceedings subject to strict reporting restrictions that will be supervised by the court.

The restrictions, which include a ban on contemporaneous publication on social media such as Twitter by the designated reporters, are designed to protect the identity of the parties whose evidence will be given in private.

Details of the reporting restrictions were revealed last night following detailed discussions between the newspapers and the State as well as the applicants.

Earlier, Judge Abbott said that the judiciary should be careful not to arrive at a situation where the courts are perceived to be purposely "avoiding the public gaze" under the guise of protecting children's interests.

"These are matters of high constitutional justice which the courts should be jealous to protect," said Judge Abbott.

Lawyers for the Attorney General said the State had taken the view that the entire case should be heard In Camera and raised concerns that the "very small children involved" at the centre of the dispute would have to deal with the consequences of any publication throughout their entire lives.

The parents in the case said that they were not attempting to exclude the press.

Gerard Durcan, for the parents, suggested that a balance between the private interest of the parties and the public interest could be achieved by limited reporting of the proceedings subject to strict reporting restrictions and directions imposed by the court.

Irish Independent

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