Gardai claim improvement in handling of child abuse cases
GARDA Commissioner Martin Callinan said yesterday that the force had given "huge attention" to improving its handling of child sexual abuse investigations in the wake of a critical report.
He was speaking after a Garda Inspectorate report found fault with the gardai for under-reporting child sexual abuse allegations in its crime statistics and for lacking specialist child abuse investigators.
But Com. Callinan said the force had drawn up a new policy on child sexual abuse investigations since it had received the draft report in 2010.
"All of the areas which have been identified in the report have received huge attention since," he said.
At the Dail's Public Accounts committee yesterday, Sinn Fein TD Mary Lou McDonald said it was astonishing that up to 65pc of child sexual offences examined in a sample of garda records were not included in the official crime figures.
The report said this was contrary to the Garda Siochana crime counting rules and could result in child sexual offences being under reported.
Com. Callinan said there was a new IT system where all such incidents were "recorded immediately".
The report was commissioned three years ago after the Murphy report into clerical sex abuse of children in the Dublin Archdiocese had criticised the quality of garda investigations. It said it agreed there was "poor conduct" and a "lack of rigour" in some of the abuse investigations and warned that gardai had shown "undue deference to the Catholic Church" between the 1960s and the 1980s.
In relation to the report's call for detectives to be trained to interview child victims instead of front-line gardai, Com. Callinan said 80 gardai had been given specific training in the area of child investigations.
The Garda Inspectorate report called for a more compassionate system for the reporting of child sexual abuse cases -- given that victims had complained about how they felt having to turn up at a garda station.
Com. Callinan said there were now seven interview suites in confidential locations (away from garda stations).
He said they were ensuring there was no "walk of shame" for a vulnerable child or adult who needed to be interviewed.
The Garda Inspectorate report -- which had its publication delayed for two years due to legal issues -- did say that its staff were impressed by the strong commitment to child protection shown by garda personnel at all locations visited.
"In some cases it was clear that successes in garda investigations into child sexual abuse could be attributed much to the persistence and determination of individual gardai and their supervisors/managers," it said.
One of the key issues in the report was the lack of co-operation between social workers and the garda investigators.
In the Dail yesterday, junior minister Roisin Shortall denied there was a turf war between gardai and HSE. But she said there was "still some way to go" to getting them working together fully.
Com. Callinan was repeatedly questioned by members about the impact of retirements on the force's ability to combat crime.
Some 293 officers will have left the force by the end of February.
Com. Callinan warned it was essential that officers currently on promotion lists be appointed to the vacant positions left by senior staff.