Gardai have powers to take a child from family into care
A CHILD law expert has defended legislation that allows gardai to enter a home without a warrant and to remove a child to safety on "reasonable grounds".
Geoffrey Shannon declined to comment on the individual case of the child removed from a Roma family in Dublin yesterday.
However, speaking generally, he explained that Section 12 of the Child Care Act allowed a garda to remove a child from its home where there were reasonable grounds for believing that there was a serious and immediate risk to the health or welfare of that child.
"There is nothing sinister about this," he said, adding that such incidents were "extremely rare" and only happened in situations deemed "absolutely urgent".
Gardai have training in this area and work together with the HSE in such cases.
And in some cases, a child could be returned to its parents or guardians "within hours" if the authorities were satisfied that the child was not at risk, he said.
"Once a child is taken to a place of safety, the HSE is required to carry out an immediate assessment of the child's welfare such as health checks to ensure they were not malnourished and would carry out inquiries to determine the identity of a child, including DNA tests.
"If the authorities are not satisfied as to the health and welfare of the child, the next step would be to apply to the district court for an emergency care order," Mr Shannon said, adding that this was a "drastic measure that involved an action by a state authority without parents being given their constitutional right to due process".
However, the gardai are required to justify their departure from safeguards, and parents are given an opportunity to state their case in court, he said. Mr Shannon pointed out that there had long been criticism of state agencies for being too slow to act in protecting children and said the State had a duty to do so.