Wednesday, 8 February 2012
Deirdre Clune (Fine Gael)
I am glad to raise this issue, which came to light last week following the publication of the Garda Inspectorate report on the investigation of sexual offences against children. There was criticism of the handling of these cases by the Garda Síochána. The report was produced in 2010 and published last week by the Minister for Justice and Equality. I hope for assurances that certain changes have been made to ensure such events do not recur.
The lack of coherence became apparent after the Garda Síochána was unable to supply the Garda Inspectorate with annual figures for sexual offences against children. A number of issues have been highlighted. In one third of cases, details of the investigation had been entered into the Garda PULSE database but had not been classified as criminal offences. Guidelines for inputting crimes were not being followed and three cases involving nine injured parties had been entered as a single offence. One fifth of cases of a sample entered into PULSE were done one month after the complaint had been made. There is fear among gardaí that they will be subject to civil action if they input the complaint before an investigation and the Garda Inspectorate recommended that these fears be allayed. It is most important that cases of sexual abuse of children should be acted upon immediately.
The inspectors referred to turf wars between HSE and the Garda Síochána and the reluctance of the HSE to call in the Garda Síochána to investigate allegations until after children had undergone therapy. This undermined subsequent prosecutions because the accused could question the integrity of evidence that emerged in therapy. The lack of meaningful co-operation between HSE and the Garda Síochána was disappointing, particularly in light of the excellent relations between the Garda Síochána and other agencies. The Minister of State is well aware of this issue and I raise it because I am concerned about it. It is very important that it is raised in this House and that fears are allayed with regard to the steps taken to ensure such discrepancies, leading to several cases of sexual abuse against children not being investigated, are addressed.
It is estimated that one in five children in Europe is a victim of some form of sexual violence within the family circle, whether child pornography, prostitution, corruption, solicitation via the Internet or sexual assault by their peers. Only 10% of cases come to the notice of the child protection services and of the 254 cases analysed in the report Responding to Sexual Abuse, only eight resulted in convictions. These figures underline the importance of immediate movement and co-ordination between the Garda Síochána and the HSE. In subsequent media reports, the Rape Crisis Network Ireland welcomed the report and suggested it would protect children from further risk and that they could be identified and protected. I would like the Minister of State to respond regarding the situation following the publication of the report.