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President signs bill into law allowing naming of child murder victims

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Legislation which will once again allow for the identification of children who died as a result of violent crimes has been signed into law by President Michael D Higgins.

The signing of the Children (Amendment) Bill 2021 into law by Mr Higgins was announced by Áras an Uachtaráin on Monday.

But it is expected to be another few days before it comes into force. 

This is because Justice Minister Helen McEntee must now sign a commencement order, giving the date for when the change will formally come into effect.

The minister has committed to a date no later than May 3, but there are indications this could be brought forward.

The new law was rushed through following an outcry from families of murdered children after High Court and Court of Appeal rulings last October on the meaning of Section 252 of the Children Act 2001.

This section prohibits the identification of a child in relation to any proceedings for an offence against the child or where a child is a witness.

But the courts ruled it also related to deceased children, meaning children who died as a result of homicide could no longer be identified once someone was charged and the person accused of killing them could not be named if doing so would identify the child.

One mother, whose two children were murdered by their father, said this interpretation had “silenced” her and meant child murder victims would become “forgotten children”.

Once the new law has formally commenced, it will be possible for such children to be identified.

However, since the two court rulings there have been a number of cases where judges made specific orders prohibiting identification of child victims.

Even when the new law is commenced, these orders will need to be lifted before those children can be identified in media reports.

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