'Garda made serious failings investigating rape of girl (8)'
Gardaí made serious failings while investigating the rape of an eight-year-old child which led to charges against the alleged perpetrator being dropped.
An investigation into the handling of the case was carried by the Garda Ombudsman after a complaint was made by the victim's mother.
This stemmed from the stoppage of the trial on the orders of the High Court after a delay in the garda investigation.
The Ombudsman found that "a serious failure of the system occurred" but said that no single garda could be singled out and held to account for the delay. Despite the incident having occurred in the early hours of July 6, 2008, charges were not brought against the then 15-year-old suspect until four years later.
He was alleged to have raped the young girl at a party celebrating a family event after locking her into a bathroom.
However, the case was dropped after a legal submission from the defence was made to the High Court and a judicial review was carried out.
Ms Justice Iseult O'Mahony found there was a breach on the prosecution's part to expedite the case involving children which resulted in the loss of legal protection.
Two complaints were made to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) in February and April 2014. The first related to the garda investigation into the rape of the eight-year-old girl.
The second complaint was made to GSOC in relation to the alleged sexual assault of a seven-year-old girl by the same perpetrator. The girl's mother said that the complaint was not properly investigated by gardaí.
Following an extensive investigation into the attack on the eight-year-old girl, GSOC found that "an excessive amount of time elapsed" from the incident being reported, the admissions of the alleged perpetrator, and the direction of charge by the DPP. "Considering the available information and evidence established by the investigation, the Ombudsman Commission is of the view that a serious failure of the system occurred in this case. This occurred from shortcomings in Garda internal communication, external communication policy, directives, training and guidance at the time of the reported incident," GSOC said.
The Ombudsman identified nine gardaí as being in potential neglect of duty. However, it found that "no garda member could be singled out and held to account for the delay in this investigation".
Fianna Fáil TD Anne Rabbitte, who is the party's spokesperson on Children and Youth Affairs, said the incident shows there is little protection for victims of serious sexual assaults. "It's awful and very worrying when we see a case like this where we have a perpetrator at large for four years," she said. "If it takes this long to bring somebody before the courts, how many other children could have been affected in the mean time?
"One child is one too many in my opinion ... there needs to be joined-up thinking in order to deal with these cases.
"There is no protection for the victim when they go through the Department of Justice. Unfortunately, it seems the Children's Department is just an after-thought in this Government.
"I've dealt with a number of different departments ... and yet children, our future, are just an after thought in Government.
"You have to keep in mind the anguish these victims have suffered ... only for the case to be dropped.
"You have no idea of how much courage it takes for a victim to come forward, and yet this happens."