Thursday 21 September 2017

Counsellor at centre of 'cut and paste' McCabe storm still with HSE

The HSE has confirmed it issued an apology to the McCabe family through their representatives.(Stock image)
The HSE has confirmed it issued an apology to the McCabe family through their representatives.(Stock image)
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The counsellor whose "cut and paste" error alleged Sgt Maurice McCabe had committed serious sexual abuse of a young woman when she was a child is still employed by the HSE.

The counsellor made the mistake in 2013 and discovered the error in May 2014.

The counsellor, who is one of 70 staff directly employed by the HSE, works with the National Counselling Service, which was set up 16 years ago and provides free therapy.

The service aims to "listen, value, and understand those who have been abused in childhood".

The HSE told the Irish Independent yesterday the counsellor is still employed by the service.

All counsellors and therapists are subject to "vetting procedures", including Garda vetting, the HSE spokeswoman said.

In July 2013 the counsellor, who was counselling an adult young woman, reported an allegation of retrospective abuse against Sgt McCabe.

It was made internally to the HSE which still had responsibility for child protection services at the time.

Read more: Public confidence in Tusla has been knocked - Children's Rights Alliance

The woman who was being counselled was previously at the centre of an allegation in 2006, through her garda father.

It was alleged that Sgt McCabe had, eight years previously, rubbed up against her and tickled her inappropriately at a birthday party.

That was investigated, dismissed in terms of evidence, and the alleged incident characterised by the DPP as not even being a criminal complaint.

The woman's solicitor has in recent days said she did not make the complaint referred in 2013 and knew nothing about what unfolded in Tusla.

The counsellor discovered the error in 2014 and it was brought to the attention of child protection services which were being transferred from the HSE to the new Child and Family Agency, Tusla. Gardaí were also notified, said the HSE.

Asked if the counsellor was working off a prescribed list of forms of abuse, the HSE said there is a reporting template.

The spokeswoman told the Irish Independent the report required the counsellor in 2013 to write a description.

The HSE has disciplinary procedures which it can invoke for employees but there is no regulatory body for counsellors and psychotherapists because of delays in bringing forward legislation.

It means unlike a doctor or nurse a counsellor does not have to face a fitness to practise inquiry.

The HSE confirmed that it issued a formal apology to the McCabe family yesterday through their representatives.

The apology was not directly conveyed to the McCabe's face to face.

The McCabes have spoken of their distress over the weekend after hearing through the media that the HSE issued an apology via a press release on Saturday.

The HSE said on hearing of the upset it made phone contact on Sunday morning and left a voicemail.

Mrs Lorraine McCabe described the HSE's weekend action as more annoyance.

The McCabes contacted an official of Health Minister Simon Harris on Saturday night to say the HSE apology was not being accepted.

The HSE said it informed the Department of Health about its involvement on Friday evening.

Asked if it had reported the error to the Data Protection Commissioner, the HSE said it was not appropriate to elaborate because certain issues will be part of the upcoming inquiry.

Asked what level of access the HSE has to the Tusla file on the McCabes, the HSE said Tusla is a separate entity.

As such there would be no access to any file "as so described," she added.

She said in light of the error review mechanisms have been put in place to reduce the risk of it happening again.

Irish Independent

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