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Monday 23 April 2018

Kerry Babies transcripts will not be put on public record 'to avoid distress to Joanne Hayes'

WRONGLY ACCUSED: Kerry woman Joanne Hayes
WRONGLY ACCUSED: Kerry woman Joanne Hayes
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

The transcripts of the Kerry Babies Tribunal will not be put on public record at the National Archive at present to prevent further distress to Joanne Hayes.

The decision by the Department of Justice is the latest gesture by the State to atone for its treatment of the Kerry woman wrongly accused of stabbing to death a baby found washed up on a Cahersiveen beach 34 years ago.

Gardai apologised to Ms Hayes last month after DNA tests proved she could not have been the murdered baby's mother. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also apologised to Ms Hayes and acknowledged the need for compensation.

Charlie Flanagan, the Minister for Justice, has been liasing with representatives of Ms Hayes and her family on the issue. The family have conveyed to the Minister for Justice that they don't want another inquiry.

The National Archives Act provides for the release of state records after 30 years but the process can take longer. The transcripts of the Kerry Babies Tribunal were due to be transferred to the National Archives early this year, where they would be publicly accessible.

However, the Department of Justice has indicated they will not now be released, to protect Ms Hayes's privacy and at the request of Gardai, who have opened a fresh inquiry into the murder of the infant found at Cahersiveen, known as Baby John.

Unlike the final report of the tribunal, the transcripts include the full cross-examination of Ms Hayes, in which she was subjected to intense and hostile questioning about her private life. Her treatment at the tribunal sparked public protests at the time.

In a statement to the Sunday Independent, the Department of Justice said that following "further discussions with her representative, we consider the privacy of Ms Joanne Hayes to be paramount in any consideration relating to the release of these transcripts."

It continued that following the review of the Baby John murder investigation, Gardai requested the Department "retain the transcripts in full, as they may need to refer to details in the transcripts as part of ongoing investigations".

The Department said it will "continue to engage with the National Archives to ensure Ms Hayes's request for privacy can be respected and that An Garda Siochana can be facilitated with access to the transcripts to assist them in their enquiries."

The Department noted the National Archives Act allows refusal to release records where that might cause distress to living persons. "It is quite evident from conversations with Ms Hayes's representatives that the release of the transcripts would cause her considerable distress," said the statement, which was issued in response to a Sunday Independent request for the transcripts.

The Government has tried to distance itself from the tribunal report, which was set up to find out how gardai extracted false confessions to the murder of Baby John from Joanne Hayes and her family.

The final report was highly critical of the Hayes family, while accusing gardai of exaggeration "or a gilding of the lily".

The original Garda investigation into Baby John's murder switched to Joanne Hayes after they learned she was pregnant at the relevant time. She was charged with murder but charges were dropped. It transpired that her baby died and was buried on the farm.

At the Kerry Babies Tribunal, the Garda side continued to argue she had had twins, one of which was Baby John, despite the fact that, even then, blood tests suggested she was not his mother.

Fresh DNA tests last year proved beyond any doubt that Ms Hayes was not the mother of Baby John.

On foot of those tests, the Garda Commissioner apologised to Joanne Hayes last month and a fresh investigation was launched into baby John's murder.

Sunday Independent

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