Order preventing reporting of childcare case granted to DPP
Judge Brendan Toale said publication “might be prejudicial” to any criminal trial
The judge made an order prohibiting publication of the case until the end of July. At that stage, it will be open to the DPP Claire Loftus (above) to apply for an extension of the order, should she deem it necessary
It is the first time the DPP has made such an application since the enactment of legislation to allow for reporting from family law courts.
The Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2013 relaxed rules surrounding the privacy of childcare and family law cases to allow limited reporting. But judges can exclude the press or prevent or curtail reporting if it is deemed necessary.
In an application last week, the DPP sought to prevent reporting at least until a decision had been made whether or not to prosecute any individual or individuals involved in the case.
Previous court orders, beginning in May 2014, had prevented The Irish Times from publishing details of the case. They followed applications from An Garda Síochána, the Child and Family Agency and other parties.
Last week, Judge Brendan Toale said reporting of the case might be prejudicial to any criminal proceedings. He said as long as what was suggested by the DPP – that reporting could be prejudicial – was not “entirely fanciful”, and if there was “any possibility” that the dissemination of information “might be prejudicial”, that was “the proper test”.
The judge said it was possible, if the story was reported, there would be discussion and observations made and potentially, a jury member might be aware. It was likely that any difficulty could be dealt with by way of a direction to the jury, but that might not be enough, he said.
He also found there was a possibility that people who may be accused in the case, may intimidate, coerce or harass witnesses as a result of the reporting of the case. While this was “a little more speculative”, there had been some evidence in the case of this type of behaviour, he said.
The judge said the public interest was clearly in favour of publication, even purely from a childcare point of view, but discretion was given to the court to prohibit or restrict publication of evidence.
He made an order prohibiting publication of the case until the end of July. At that stage, it will be open to the DPP Claire Loftus to apply for an extension of the order, should she deem it necessary.