Tuesday 23 May 2017

HSE's failure to deal with horrific abuse case probed

DON LAVERY

THE failure of two health boards to communicate with each other about the monster who raped and tortured his daughters -- and their inability to track the family which allowed him to continue his abuse for nine years -- is a key issue in a review of the HSE involvement with the family in the horrific case.

Although a health board in the eastern part of the country became aware of the abuse by the father in 2000, when the family moved to the west, warning signs about the family were not apparently passed on to the local health board.

And although praise was heaped on gardai in the west for supporting the abused victims and successfully building a case against the man which saw him jailed for life, gardai there admitted they had not been warned about the at-risk family's move to their area.

As the sordid details emerged in court of two decades of abuse in the traveller family, it was also revealed that 19 children of the extended family in the case are in care.

The HSE review will look at the sequence of events and the interaction with social workers after one of the couple's daughters called the gardai in 2000 to say that her father had raped an older sister. A statement was made by the older girl and she was taken to the sexual assault unit of a Dublin hospital for a medical examination.

The local health board was alerted to the situation within the family and the father was arrested and questioned but denied raping the girl.

The health board intervened and the father apparently left the family caravan. Some months later the two daughters withdrew their statements.

The family later travelled to the west where the father rejoined them and another nine years of torture and rape followed until the now 50-year-old man was arrested in June 2009.

HSE sources acknowledged the failure to inform another health board about the family and said a national childcare information system, a database where such details could be accessed by social workers, was being developed.

But they also pointed out the difficulties in tracking an abuser who lived on the fringes of society and sought out remote places to carry out abuse.

However, on Friday justice finally caught up with the man who was jailed for life for multiple rapes of four of his daughters between 1991 and 2009. The man had already been jailed for 14 years just 12 months ago for more than 80 rapes of his eldest daughter by whom he fathered two children.

The children's mother, 47, was jailed for eight years last July for appalling acts of cruelty to eight of her children between 2002 and 2009.

At the Central Criminal Court sitting in Castlebar, Mr Justice Paul Carney said he had carefully considered the evidence as a whole and had regard to the unchallenged evidence of one of the girls that, no matter how long a sentence the accused man got, he would find her and kill her.

"This was a credible threat", Judge Carney said.

The court was stunned as it listened to evidence of depraved acts by the father who would take one of his daughters deep into the forest and abuse them.

One child was just nine when he tied her to a tree with wire and buggered her before turning her around, tying her once more and raping her. He tied another daughter to a tree with string and proceeded to rape her. She had to wait for her brother to come along to free her.

"Sometimes when he'd rape us, he'd take us into the woods, that way no one would hear you scream," the daughter recalled. "He raped me sometimes three to four times in the day -- he used to change camps all the time."

Other times he raped the defenceless girls on the floor of the caravan, in his bed and outside the caravan. He raped two of them across the bonnet of a car.

They had no chance to fight him off. One child pointed out that she was just six stone while he was all of 20 stone. The family were always based in remote, uninhabited locations -- deliberately chosen by the father -- where the rapes and beatings went on unabated.

A number of the girls ran away when older, but were eventually found and brought back home and beaten. The beginning of the end of their nightmare came in June 2009 when one of the couple's sons went to a garda station and told of his concerns about what was happening to his sisters.

Yesterday the HSE confirmed that its dealings with the family were now being reviewed.

"The HSE's involvement with the family who were party to the legal proceedings which concluded today is being reviewed by the National Review Panel for Serious Incidents established under HIQA guidance," a statement said. The panel is chaired by Professor Helen Buckley, School of Social Work, TCD.

Sunday Independent

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