Saturday 10 December 2016

Groups facing prosecution as Garda vetting deadline looms

Published 16/10/2016 | 02:30

Safety: Superintendent Sarah Meyler
Safety: Superintendent Sarah Meyler

Organisations dealing with children and vulnerable people are facing prosecution if they fail to participate with the employee vetting system.

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Figures released by An Garda Siochana, which is responsible for all vetting, show that while 358 organisations have engaged fully with the new system, another 150 have until next year to take part or potentially face prosecutions.

The vetting system was first mooted 20 years ago in the midst of the clerical abuse scandals leading to repeated calls for 'mandatory reporting' of suspected paedophiles and abusers of adults in psychiatric care.

Four years ago the Garda Vetting Office was set up in Thurles, Co Tipperary, and almost immediately overwhelmed by a deluge of postal applications. Long delays occurred, causing some applicants to lose places in employment and putting pressure on employers who became unable to hire staff.

However, with the majority of applications being dealt with online, the Vetting Office, headed by Superintendent Sarah Meyler, has this year come in for plaudits for its dramatically increased turn-around of applications.

Superintendent Meyler said that 85pc of vetting is now done online, with 80pc of these processed within four to five days. Applications for vetting can and are being made from all round the world, with the Superintendent pointing out that her office has processed applications from 135 countries.

She has appealed to organisations and employers who have yet to engage with the online vetting application system to do so as it will reduce the current waiting time for paper applications.

Garda sources say the Vetting Bureau has become something of an exemplar for other non-operational units in the force, with only five gardai working with 170 civilian staff, the highest proportion of civilians to gardai in any section.

This year some 400,000 applications will be processed with Superintendent Meyler expecting this number to rise next year as the December 2017 deadline for all organisations dealing with children and vulnerable adults looms.

Under the 2012 National Vetting Bureau Act those not in accordance with the vetting rules can face prosecution with penalties of up to five years' imprisonment and, or fines of up to €10,000.

Superintendent Meyler said the Vetting Bureau has now developed strong relations with organisations: "We have built up really strong partnership between the Garda and organisations to protect children and vulnerable persons. They are very committed and want to ensure that their staffs are suitable for working with children and vulnerable persons. It is equally important that the same rights are accorded to applicants as to children and vulnerable persons. It is a very safe system."

She urged those organisations yet to fully engage with the vetting system to do so before the statutory deadline at next year's end.

Sunday Independent

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