Thursday 21 September 2017

Catholic Church delayed reporting child sex abuse allegations to authorities – HSE

Paul Melia

Paul Melia

CHURCH authorities took almost four months to report allegations of child sex abuse despite new guidelines that incidents should be immediately reported to gardai and the HSE.

A HSE report published today says just 15pc of all cases were reported to gardai and health chiefs “with immediacy” or within three days, and that dioceses “misinterpreted” the guidelines which were introduced in 2009.

And it found that despite telling the HSE that all allegations received had been reported to gardai and health bosses, some dioceses had not passed on the information.

There was a wide variation in the reporting procedures used by the dioceses, and there was a need for “further improvements,” Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald said.

“Focus must remain on addressing the need for ongoing improvements; in particular in those dioceses identified by the audit as requiring further work,” she said, adding she was “concerned” by some aspects of the report’s findings.

They included:

Difficulties in deciding the time it took to report allegations, particularly those made in the past.

“Significant” delays in reporting allegations to the civil authorities in the case of some of the dioceses.

Cases where dioceses had told the HSE they had reported all allegations promptly, but the HSE found this was not the case.

The report is the first part of a process which involves auditing the 24 Catholic dioceses. A second review of 150 congregations and religious orders is underway.

The report looked at all cases of abuse ever received up to November last year. It found that 579 allegations in relation to 189 priests were notified to the 24 dioceses that were the subject of this audit.

Some 31 diocesan priests have been convicted of child sexual abuse. One priest had more than 40 allegations made against him.

It also finds that some dioceses “misinterpreted” the guidelines, including notifying allegations to gardai but not the HSE on the understanding that gardai would do so.

The report also notes that in terms of responding to the “immediate” risk to children, the response was generally good. This included taking “prompt action” to remove priests from ministry.

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