Hawe review recommendations to be ‘prioritised’

Work progressing on amending Succession Act to ensure perpetrators of domestic homicides do not benefit through inheritance

An independent study looking at international best practice in the conduct of domestic homicide reviews in Ireland is expected to be published in the “coming weeks”, according to the Department of Justice.

Contained in the Justice Plan 2021, and commissioned after the surviving family of Clodagh and her three young boys appeared on Claire Byrne Live in February 2019, the report will first be considered by the Minister for Justice before publication.

“The report will be finalised in the coming weeks and it will subsequently be published. When received, the Minister will examine the report in detail and has committed to considering any recommendations made as a priority,” a spokesperson for the department confirmed to The Anglo-Celt.

The study was conducted by an appointed advisory group, with Maura Butler, solicitor, taking responsibility for completion following the untimely death of Norah Gibbons, who was previously responsible.

Ms Gibbons, the first chair of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and a tireless advocate of children’s rights, passed away in May 2020.

The department says the publication of the report will be an “important first step” to delivering on the Programme for Government Commitment to legislate to introduce Domestic Homicide Reviews.

It is understood the present focus is on the ‘fair procedures’ stage of the report process. This allows any persons or organisations affected by the contents, including the families concerned, to be given an opportunity to reply.

“Invariably, this part of the process can take time as it involves engaging with multiple parties. However, it is an essential part of the process and must be completed before the report can be finalised,” said the department spokesperson.

Inheritance laws

Separately, work is progressing to amend Section 120 of the Succession Act to ensure that perpetrators of domestic homicides do not benefit through inheritance.

The department says it is working with the Office of the Attorney General but “a number of complex legal issues” persist. While the terms of reference of the independent study on Familicide and Domestic Homicide Reviews does not cover the issue of succession specifically, the Department of Justice indicate it “might be considered more practical” to advance matters following on from the publication of the review.

Families at Inquest

Meanwhile, a Code of Practice for Families at Inquest, as provided for under section 31 of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014, is also at the stage of “final preparation”. The Review of the Coroner Service published in December 2000 is considered a “significant milestone” in terms of modernising death investigations in Ireland. The majority of the recommendations related to the strengthening of the legal provisions relating to the work of the coroner and have been implemented.

However, the new Code agreed between IHREC, the Coroners Society of Ireland and the Department of Justice will provide an extensive information resource and guidance for families going forward.

“The Code will be put on a statutory basis by an Order to be made by the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.”

Serious case review update

An Garda Siochana replied to say that Serious Case Review of the investigation into the murder-suicide of the Hawe family is “ongoing”, with no further update offered.

For anyone affected by any of the issues discussed in this article, contact the Samaritans on 116 123, or for domestic violence services, Tearmann on 047-72311.