Thursday 8 December 2016

Child sex abuse files held by HSE in unlocked shed

Gardai probe discovery of confidential records

Published 15/05/2016 | 02:30

SHOCK: John McGuinness. Photo: Damien Eagers
SHOCK: John McGuinness. Photo: Damien Eagers

A Garda investigation has been launched after a HSE storage facility containing highly sensitive files was found unlocked with its doors open and without any security.

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The unit, on the grounds of a psychiatric hospital in Kilkenny, contained files on internal investigations into allegations of child abuse and assault against HSE workers.

The HSE said it was taking the matter "extremely seriously", but claimed there were no patient or personnel files held in the storage facility.

However, Fianna Fail TD John McGuinness, who was alerted to the files by a member of the public, said it was "outrageous" for the HSE to claim the files did not relate to patients or personnel.

Mr McGuinness was given a selection of files by the concerned citizen and also visited the storage unit on the grounds of the old auxiliary hospital in Kilkenny.

Pictures taken by the Carlow/Kilkenny TD, which have been seen by the Sunday Independent, show shelves containing dozens of boxes of files labelled 'personnel'.

"A concerned citizen drew my attention to the issue of files being stored there. At first, I didn't believe it was the case and it was impressed on me that it was, so I went to see," Mr McGuinness told the Sunday Independent. "I was shocked to see the doors were unlocked, there was no security.

"The files contain a range of material from standard reports to reports on legal cases taken by the HSE or against the HSE. Then there were other ones about sex abuse in the area."

Mr McGuinness alerted the HSE and lodged a complaint with the Data Protection Commissioner. He also spoke to gardai.

In a statement, the HSE said there had been "a recent incident of vandalism at the old auxiliary hospital premises which had been reported to gardai".

"The HSE has investigated the matter and will be cooperating with the Data Protection Commissioner's office. Following investigation, the HSE can confirm that there are no patient records or personnel files held in the material," a spokesman said.

"Examination of files stored at the premises indicate the presence of general human resource documentation, inclusive of material relating to training and review of procedures on domestic violence and child abuse but not personal information."

Mr McGuinness insisted there was no vandalism at the site. "There was no vandalism, the files were in perfect order on the shelves. It's outrageous to say these are not highly sensitive documents."

He also said the files were placed into a van from a recycling company last Friday.

According to a recent report, there were 100 data protection breaches in the HSE over a 12-month period. This included the loss of 16 laptops and phones containing confidential HSE information.

Sunday Independent

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