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Ban on revealing identity of woman charged with murdering her baby to remain in place, judge rules

By Alan Erwin

Published 19/08/2015

The 31-year-old accused was arrested by detectives investigating the infant's death following an incident in Belfast more than a year ago.
The 31-year-old accused was arrested by detectives investigating the infant's death following an incident in Belfast more than a year ago.

A ban on revealing the identity of a woman charged with murdering her baby is to remain in place, a judge has ruled.

The reporting restriction was continued following renewed medical evidence that lifting the anonymity order would increase the risk of her committing suicide.

The 31-year-old accused was arrested by detectives investigating the infant's death following an incident in Belfast more than a year ago.

She was charged with murder and initially detained under the Mental Health Act.

A temporary prohibition on publishing her identity had been put in place amid fears it could lead to her trying to take her own life.

In an initial testimony to Belfast Magistrates' Court a consultant psychiatrist who treated the defendant said she suffers from severe mental illness.

Naming her in the media would be the "tipping point" for her to attempt suicide, it was claimed.

Even though staff at the psychiatric unit were watching the defendant 24 hours a day the doctor insisted opportunities could still arise.

A press challenge to the anonymity order centred on the public's right to know full details in the case.

Counsel for the Belfast Telegraph's publishers had argued that the whole point of reporting criminal cases is to publicise who has been charged with the most "heinous" of offences.

It was also contended that under the hospital regime any risk would not be increased through being named.

Since then the woman has been moved from a psychiatric unit to normal prison custody.

Following the change in her status District Judge Fiona Bagnall requested an up to date medical assessment as part of a review of the reporting restrictions.

But with a second psychiatrist agreeing that the woman could try to kill herself if identified, Mrs Bagnall ruled earlier this week that the ban is to remain in place.

Lawyers are now expected to set a date for a further hearing to decide if she will stand trial.

Backing the verdict, the woman's lawyer insisted her right to life under European law must take priority.

Damien Trainor of McCrudden & Trainor Solicitors said today: "We acknowledge that this is an extreme measure taken by the court and that the principle of open justice must prevail in the great majority of cases.

"However, the right to life is sacrosanct, fundamental, supreme and inviolable."

Based on the suicide risk set out in court by two consultant psychiatrists, Mr Trainor argued that the continued restriction is a proportionate measure.

He added: "The public will still continue to be apprised of all aspects of this difficult case."

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