Friday 28 July 2017

HSE waited for three years to alert gardai of 'Grace' report

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)

Ian Begley

The Health Service Executive waited three years to notify the gardai about a major report into the care of an intellectually disabled young woman at a foster home.

That is despite the HSE telling the Dail they could not publish the Conal Devine Report into the treatment of the woman, known only as Grace, due to a request from An Garda Siochana.

Documents obtained by RTE's This Week programme show that the first contact between the HSE and the gardai on the report was March 2015, exactly three years after the completion of the Conal Devine Report.

The first contact with gardai was made when a solicitor from the HSE contacted a superintendent to notify him of the HSE's plans to publish the report and to query if there would be any objections from An Gardai Siochana.

Dr Cathal Morgan, the head of operations in the HSE's Disability Service said he "couldn't explain" the three-year delay.

He said that he had been of the understanding that gardai did not want the report released due to ongoing investigations.

The report found health service staff failed in their duty of care towards the young woman, who was left in the foster home for 20 years despite evidence she and other children were being abused.

The girl, now a woman known as Grace, was allowed remain in the home in the south east for 13 years after an allegation of sexual abuse was made against her foster father.

She was also not removed despite presenting at day services with unexplained bruising and a black eye, according to the Conal Devince Report which was published this week and seen by the Irish Independent.

The Government is to establish a Commission of Investigation to examine the disturbing case, with Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath bringing terms of reference to Cabinet next week.

The FOI document showed the first contact with gardai was made when a HSE solicitor wrote to a superintendent to inform him of the public body's intention to public the report, which was completed in 2012.

The solicitor had also sought to know if the gardai had any objection to its publication.

Dr Morgan said on RTE's Radio 1 that the gardai had no issue with the publication of the reports. He also said that  the lack of documentation around decision making is "very difficult to understand".

The head of Disability Operations added that there was a reluctance to share the records, saying: "There was no legal barrier for it not be shared."

Presenter Colm O'Mongain then asked: "What is the material difference between this (the reluctance to share information) and a cover-up?"

"I don't have an answer to that," he said, adding that  he is still relatively new to his position.

Dr Morgan said that to the best of his knowledge the people referenced to as H7, H3, and H12 in the report would have been "responsible for implementing the action of having her removed".

He went onto say that the "three person panel" were no longer in public service."

"My understanding is that the HSE, the legal team at the HSE and the prosecuting gardaí were in constant contact.

"If there is information there this really needs to be taken up in the context of statutory investigation," he said.

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