Tuesday 26 September 2017

Exclusive: Gardai failed to inform HSE about potential risk to children from serving officer now being investigated over alleged sex assault on girl (11)

Woman who claims she was raped by Garda officer says he admitted child sex fantasies

Cathal McMahon

Cathal McMahon

Gardaí failed to inform HSE services about a potential threat posed to young children by a serving garda member after an alleged rape victim made a complaint three years ago.

The officer is now under investigation for alleged child sex offences with an 11-year-old in recent weeks.

A mother, who claims she was raped by the garda, has told Independent.ie that during her alleged ordeal in August 2013 the officer admitted child sex fantasies.

She contacted a senior garda member immediately after the incident and raised concerns for the safety of named children.

The woman who alleges she was raped by a serving garda member. Picture: Kyran O'Brien
The woman who alleges she was raped by a serving garda member. Picture: Kyran O'Brien

A number of days later she repeated those concerns when she verbally reported her rape allegations to a second senior officer.

However, in a letter from the office of Tanaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald sent to the woman in August 2016, a senior civil servant acknowledged that this information was not passed on to HSE child and family services.

Furthermore, the letter confirms that the District Officer in the garda division “failed to retain in writing a record of the decision and the justification for not initially reporting the alleged child protection issues in compliance with the HQ directive”.

It has emerged that a new investigation has been launched into the same garda member by the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) over fresh allegations that he sexually assaulted an 11-year-old girl.

It is understood that this latest complaint relates to an incident that took place in the last number of weeks.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the original accuser said she knew the garda for seven years previous to the alleged attack on her through her work with a local management agency.

She explained that she arranged to meet him in the car park of a bar and shopping centre after he contacted her claiming to have “important information” in August 2013.

However, she claims that when she went to meet him, he held her down and raped her in his car.

Tanaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald met with the woman in 2015 and wrote to her in August 2016. Photo: Damien Eagers
Tanaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald met with the woman in 2015 and wrote to her in August 2016. Photo: Damien Eagers

During the alleged attack the mother claims that the garda described child fantasies.

She explained: “I said to myself 'if you get out of this car, you have to remember this is not just about you. There's a child in danger and you need to take in details he's saying so you can help her

“He said 'what if I told you I was into young girls?' He said '18' and he kept going down to 12. I said 'please, I don't want to hear any more'.”

The woman claimed that the man mentioned an underage girl who he claimed to have sexually assaulted.

Following the alleged incident the mother claims she contacted a senior garda officer, who was based in the same district as her alleged attacker, by text message.

She attended a sexual assault unit and the following week she met with a second senior garda and made a complaint about the attack.

She claims that at this meeting, and in the initial text message correspondence with the senior garda, she raised concerns about child welfare.

While the woman claims she made an oral report at the time it is understood that no written formal complaint was recorded.

“I verbally told him [second senior officer] about what the individual guard had done to me and I also told him everything about the child side of it.

“My words to him were: 'That's part of the child protection guidelines, I am now handing it over to you. So you are responsible and the responsibility for me is now off my shoulders'. It never left me but I was giving it to someone else to follow.”

However, the Tanaiste has now acknowledged, in her letter to the woman, that these concerns were not passed on to Tusla the child and family agency.

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Section of the letter sent to the woman by Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald
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Section of the letter sent from the Tanaiste to the woman.

The correspondence confirms that Tusla were only made aware of child protection concerns after the woman made a formal complaint to GSOC. The woman told Independent.ie that this was in early 2014 – around six months after the alleged rape.

The letter explains: “It is understood that after you made your complaint to GSOC, they referred matters to Tusla which included details of the children identified as being subject to the investigation.

“While it is a matter of concern that this contact did not take place at the earliest opportunity, the appropriate child protection body were made aware of your concerns.

“The Tanaiste has been informed that GSOC met with Tulsa [sic] to discuss the child protection concerns and that there was subsequent contact by both GSOC and Tulsa [sic] with the families of the children.

“Nevertheless, the Tanaiste has referred back to GSOC the issue of the failure by the Gardai to contact the appropriate child protection agencies earlier.”

It is not clear at this point if the latest alleged victim was one of the children that the woman had initially alerted gardaí to.

GSOC carried out an investigation into the first alleged attack, and a file was submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) but a decision was made not to proceed with a trial.

The Tanaiste met with the woman in October 2015 and wrote to her in August 2016, following the completion of a garda report into the matter.

The letter from the Department of Justice confirmed that a disciplinary investigation was taken against a senior garda by GSOC.

Independent.ie understands that this was the officer who the woman contacted first by text message shortly after her alleged ordeal.

The letter states: “A number of breaches of discipline were investigated including failure to secure evidence, including CCTV, mobile phones and clothing, and failure to record the incident on the Garda PULSE system.”

The letter says that on foot of this incident a notice was issued to all Chief Superintendents and Superintendents to “remind them to adhere to the Garda Siochiana Policy on the Investigation of Sexual Crimes, Crimes against Children and Child Welfare”.

The letter from the department states: “On a general note, the Garda Siochana report states that the failure in this case was not an endemic issue and did not appear to be occurring on a systematic basis.”

In a second letter, sent in the last week from the Tanaiste's office to the woman, a senior civil servant states that following consideration of the garda reports into the matter the Tanaiste considered it appropriate to refer back to GSOC "the failure by the Gardai to contact the appropriate child protection agencies earlier regarding the child protection concerns you had raised."

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Section of the letter sent to the woman by Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald

A directive to issue “further instruction clarifying the policy on recording child protection referral decisions" was given.

In a statement a garda spokesman said: “An Garda Síochána takes its obligations in relation to child protection under Children First very seriously. All members have been informed of the critical need for them to ensure any relevant matters relating to child protection issues are reported to the relevant agency or agencies as quickly as possible in the correct manner.

“An Garda Siochana does not comment on internal disciplinary investigations into individual members or investigations by GSOC.”

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