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Minister's concerns stall new law to stop killers benefiting from crimes

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Clodagh Hawe’s mother Mary Coll and sister Jacqueline Connolly

Clodagh Hawe’s mother Mary Coll and sister Jacqueline Connolly

Clodagh Hawe’s mother Mary Coll and sister Jacqueline Connolly

A new law to block killers or their estates benefiting from their crimes is being stalled by Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan.

The minister has been criticised for not prioritising legislation to close the loophole, an issued raised with him this week by the family of slain mother Clodagh Hawe.

But the Department of Justice says there are problems with the proposed legislation and that it may have unintended consequences.

The private members bill, dubbed Celine's Law after slain film production company owner Celine Cawley, was tabled by Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan two years ago. It came after Ms Cawley's husband Eamonn Lillis, despite being convicted of manslaughter, maintained he was entitled to ownership of assets he jointly held with his wife, including homes in Dublin and France.

Lillis ultimately won the right to a 50pc share of Irish assets following a High Court ruling. However, a French court found he had no right to a share in the home in France.

The Government has said it is not opposed to Mr O'Callaghan's bill. However, the Irish Independent has learned there are no plans to prioritise it, even after calls from Clodagh Hawe's mother and sister for changes to succession laws this week.

Their pleas came amid fears Mr Hawe's estate stands to benefit after he transferred family funds to his own account. He took his own life after brutally murdering Clodagh (39) and sons Liam (14), Niall (11) and Ryan (6) at their home near Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan, in August 2016.

The legislation was left off the Government's priority list for the spring and has yet to be scheduled for scrutiny by the Oireachtas Justice Committee.

And even when it gets to that point, it is likely to be delayed as the Government wants "substantial amendments".

The department said the bill contained a number of unintended legal consequences, which would be addressed by the Government's committee stage amendments.

The minister has concerns the proposed law would not apply to someone who aids, abets, counsels or procures the commission of murder, attempted murder or manslaughter. He is also concerned about a number of complex jurisdictional issues which may arise in cases where the killing took place outside the jurisdiction.

In a statement, the department said Mr Flanagan received a submission from Clodagh Hawe's family this week. "He has assured them that their concerns will be carefully considered by his department officials and the Attorney General as part of this process," it said.

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However, Mr O'Callaghan called for greater urgency.

"The cases of Clodagh Hawe and Celine Cawley indicate the Government must take steps immediately to reform the law that allows killers or their estates to benefit from their heinous crimes," he said.

"Last year, Dáil Éireann gave support to my legislation seeking to amend the law. The Government needs to prioritise this legislation so that the families don't have to go through the bizarre and unfair process of seeing their loved ones' killers benefit from their crimes."

Meanwhile, the National Women's Council of Ireland said it had "very serious concerns" about the length of time which has elapsed since a review of domestic homicides was announced in the wake of the Hawe murders in 2016.

A Garda spokesman would not comment on individual cases but said it had started a process where domestic homicides will be reviewed to establish what lessons can be learnt from a policing perspective.

"One such review has been undertaken and two further cases have been identified for review," they added.


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