Saturday 23 September 2017

Gardai given training in child sexual abuse victim interviews

Some child sex cases take six years to prosecute

'A new programme to train gardai in interviewing child sexual abuse victims has been introduced following repeated instances of cases taking up to six years to prosecute'. Stock image
'A new programme to train gardai in interviewing child sexual abuse victims has been introduced following repeated instances of cases taking up to six years to prosecute'. Stock image
Jim Cusack

Jim Cusack

A new programme to train gardai in interviewing child sexual abuse victims has been introduced following repeated instances of cases taking up to six years to prosecute.

Last October it was revealed that the case of an eight-year-old girl allegedly raped by a teenage boy during a party at her home was left languishing in the Garda's system for six years before it was finally dropped.

Various failures were highlighted by a Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) investigation into the case of 'Miss A' who was attacked at her home in July 2008.

The case was initially investigated and was "almost complete" within a month but then left for six years owing to a "systems failure'" GSOC concluded. The prosecution was then dropped.

Last year's investigation followed successive reports into the reporting of child sexual abuse stemming from inquiries into clerical sexual abuse in Ferns diocese in the Southeast (2005) and from the 2009 Murphy Report into clerical abuse in the Dublin diocese. The independent Garda Inspectorate also made recommendations for better recording and investigation of child abuse cases in 2010 and 2014.

In its 2010 report, Responding to Child Sexual Abuse, the inspectorate found that untrained 'regular unit' gardai were being left in charge of investigations of rape, including the rape of children, and other serious crimes.

The inspectorate followed up this report in 2014 and again found failings in the system of child sexual abuse investigation and recording.

The subject was raised with Garda management over the past year by the new Policing Authority which said last week that it was still waiting for confirmation from the Garda as to how many 'specialist child interviewers' (SCIs) there were in the force.

A training programme was put in place, although details of how many gardai have completed the 'stage three' advanced training are unclear. The Policing Authority has asked for clarification of the numbers who have carried out the training.

Deputy Commissioner John Twomey told the authority at its public meeting on February 23 that 73 gardai were undergoing specialist training to deal with child victims. However, it was not made clear how many had actually completed the training.

In its 2010 report on Responding to Child Sexual Abuse, the Garda Inspectorate recorded that there were 84 specially trained gardai.

At its last public meeting with gardai, the Policing Authority was told that the force was recording between 17,000 and 20,000 reports of suspected child abuse each year.

One aspect of the Garda's handling of child sexual abuse cases highlighted by the inspectorate in 2010 was "disturbing evidence of poor record keeping".

It found that 42pc of the 106 cases it examined had not been recorded on the Garda's Pulse computerised information system. Some 31pc of cases were recorded under the heading 'Attention and Complaints', which is a non-crime category.

The 2010 inspectorate report stated: "Altogether, the inspectorate estimates that there was a failure to record up to 65pc of the net sample as child sexual offences."

The inspectorate recommended "that the Garda Siochana publish information for complainants on how, where and when they can make a complaint about child sexual abuse. This should reassure victims that it is right to report child sexual abuse."

The Garda finally set up an emergency call line, an 1800 number, last month.

The 'Miss A' rape case investigation by the Garda Ombudsman found that it was initially investigated properly and the suspect questioned within days.

A file was nearly completed within a month but after the garda sergeant in charge was transferred it was passed on to a juvenile liaison office where it lay unexamined for a further two years.

"Training deficiencies" and failures in internal communications were identified as among the main factors.

Sunday Independent

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