28. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the degree to which he has examined the situation experienced by families suffering in the aftermath of familicide with particular reference to the need to ensure that an early warning system can be provided in which families may be briefed in situations in which a risk might exist; if consideration can also be given to legislating to prevent perpetrators from benefitting as a result of homicide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11805/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As the Deputy is aware, I have instructed my officials to draft terms of reference for a study about how best to support families in the most caring and effective way in the aftermath of murder-suicides and this work is at an advanced stage.
In such tragic circumstances, I fully acknowledge that one of the supports that can be provided to remaining family members is the provision of timely information on the facts and development of a case, insofar as that is desired by the family. As the Deputy is aware, this is one of the primary roles of the Garda Family Liaison Officers, who are appointed to families in these cases but there are necessary limitations that apply to the disclosure of legally privileged information. While I do not wish to preempt the finalisation of terms of reference, I expect that the proposed study will include an examination of the role of the liaison officers, how that has evolved since the enactment of the Victims of Crime Act 2017 and how to deal with disseminating information while adhering to any limitations which may apply.
I intend to consult relevant parties, including my Government colleagues and relevant experts, before finalising the terms of reference. I will examine any recommendations made, including any legislative change that might be proposed.
The Deputy asks about the possibility of an early warning system to alert families of risk of murder-suicide. I would not wish to raise any false expectations in this regard. Many of those who complete murder-suicides have not been assessed as posing any risk to themselves or their families by police, medical or caring professionals. There are a small number of such horrific and appalling crimes but given the issues involved it would likely be very difficult if not impossible to established an early warning system.
I want to acknowledge the work of Deputy O'Callaghan who published a Private Members’ Bill – the Civil Liability (Amendment) (Prevention of Benefits from Homicide) Bill. The Government did not oppose the Private Members Bill at its Second Stage debate, but indicated that it would be tabling amendments to the Bill at Committee Stage. The Bill will be considered shortly by the Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality and I hope to be in a position to finalise the required amendments to that Bill as soon as possible.