Supreme Court agrees to hear appeal against landmark ruling permitting naming of Cameron Blair’s murderer

Judgment under appeal dislodged long-standing interpretation of law that child offenders retain anonymity on appeal

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal against a landmark judgment provisionally permitting the naming of the person convicted of murdering Cameron Blair by stabbing him in the neck at a house party.

The young man was 17 when he pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to the 20-year-old student’s murder on the Bandon Road in Cork on January 16th, 2020.

Last January, after he had reached adulthood, the Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal against being sentenced to life detention with a review to be conducted after serving 13 years. The court also held that the media could identify an accused who turns 18 during their criminal court proceedings or appeals.

This dislodged a long-standing interpretation of section 93 of the 2001 Children Act that identity protections for child offenders continue to apply when an accused appears before appellant courts.


An order was made pausing the effects of the Court of Appeal’s decision pending an appeal by the now-21-year-old, who is serving a life sentence. This prevents the identification of the appellant while the ruling is under appeal.

In a determination published on Thursday, a panel of three Supreme Court judges said the young man’s appeal contains matters of general public importance.

The question of whether anonymity applies to people convicted as children who appear before the courts as adults on appeal will have an impact on a “large number” of people who “age out” during proceedings, said Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley, Mr Justice Brian Murray and Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly.

“This is an important area of the law which concerns the ongoing interests of a child into adulthood and the administration of justice in public,” they added.

The judges said section 93 makes special provision for prohibiting the identification of a person aged under 18 who appears before a court. The Court of Appeal noted “somewhat of an anomaly” in how the provision applies since the section was amended.

The man’s lawyers submitted that important issues arise concerning the protection of children in the criminal justice system and issues of fairness to children exercising a right of appeal.

The Director of Public Prosecutions opposed his application for a Supreme Court appeal, submitting that the lower court ruled the applicability of anonymity is “clear and unambiguous”.

She submitted that had the legislature intended to extend the right to anonymity to child offenders who have aged out before appeal or further proceedings, this would have been addressed in the relevant laws. Section 93 deserves a presumption of constitutionality, she further submitted.

The Supreme Court judges said they have also permitted another appeal that concerns different issues of section 93. The cases, which bear a degree of overlap, may be heard together, they said.

In this man’s case, the Court of Appeal ruled last January that section 93 applies “only to a child”, who is a person under the age of 18. Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy found that no provision of the Children Act provides for an “extension of reporting restrictions and anonymity to those who age out before proceedings conclude”.

Mr Blair, a second-year chemical engineering student at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) from Ballinascarthy in west Cork, died at Cork University Hospital on January 16th.

The sentencing court heard he was acting as a “peacemaker” outside the house party in Cork city and told friends: “Don’t worry lads, I don’t want to be fighting”, moments after the accused stabbed him with a knife to his neck. The court was told Mr Blair had earlier that night “extended the hand of friendship” to his murderer when he suggested the 17-year-old and his friends be permitted into the party.

At sentencing in April 2020, Mr Justice Paul McDermott said the defendant had the intention to kill or cause serious injury to Mr Blair and there was no evidence of self-defence.

“The dreadful reality is that the life of Cameron was taken in an act of extreme violence,” he said.

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is an Irish Times reporter