Saturday 18 November 2017

Close vetting loophole to protect kids from criminals, report warns

Geoffrey Shannon. Photo: Tom Burke
Geoffrey Shannon. Photo: Tom Burke

Sam Griffin

A loophole which allows people from outside of Ireland access to children here without having to undergo a full vetting process must be closed, a report by the special rapporteur for child protection has warned.

Prof Geoffrey Shannon makes the recommendations, along with dozens of others, in his eighth report into children's rights and welfare.

The report states that currently there is no obligation on the Garda Vetting Unit to seek information from police authorities in a foreign jurisdiction where a person has lived in that country.

This means people who have been convicted of serious crimes in other countries could potentially be cleared by the garda vetting process and gain access to children here in a range of settings.

"It is recommended that a procedure be introduced whereby vetting information can be obtained in respect of a time period spent outside Ireland by persons that are undergoing vetting," Prof Shannon advises.

"This might be addressed by protocols or administrative arrangements with police authorities in a foreign jurisdiction."

He says the Criminal Records Information Systems Bill 2013 may also tackle the problem.

Children's Rights Alliance chief executive Tanya Ward said the current situation could be easily exploited by those who prey on children and welcomed the recommendation.

"Prof Shannon identifies a serious gap in the vetting process where there is no obligation on the Garda Vetting Unit to seek information from police outside Ireland when a person has lived abroad," Ms Ward said.

"Ensuring a person working with children has not committed an offence against a child is a basic child protection measure. Yet, at present, someone who wishes to prey on children could easily travel to Ireland to exploit this loophole."

The report also recommends that the minimum wage be extended to those in employment under the age of 18. Currently children are only entitled to 70pc of the wage.

Irish Independent

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