Ten gardai, a three-year inquiry . . . but only one prosecution
A THREE-and-a-half year Garda investigation into a raft of sexual and physical abuse complaints against Christian Brothers at the former Artane boys industrial school in Dublin resulted in a single criminal prosecution.
The outcome of the most wide ranging garda inquiry into child sex abuse highlighted the difficulties confronting the authorities in successfully completing an investigation into allegations about events that took place decades earlier.
The sole prosecution has not yet been determined by the courts. The accused, a 65-year-old Christian Brother, who cannot be named, was charged in July 1999 with 53 sexual offences allegedly committed in the Artane school.
As a result of legal challenges the case went to the High Court and then the Supreme Court and is now back in the High Court where a judicial review has been listed for October.
Ten gardai including a detective sergeant were assigned full-time to working on the Artane inquiry in early 1998. The inquiry arose out of an initial small number of complaints from former pupils of the school and it then began to "mushroom".
The ten-person team worked permanently on the investigation for almost 18 months and took well over a thousand statements from potential witnesses.
The big majority of the complaints related to physical abuse of the boys and it was decided that these should be deal with firstly in an early file to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
But the DPP ruled against bringing criminal charges in any of the physical abuse cases because of the statute of limitations arising from the time-lapse between the date of the alleged assaults and the garda inquiry.
Most of the allegations centred on incidents that took place between the late 1940s and the late 1960s when the Artane school was shut down. The DPP ruled that he would deal only with sexual abuse allegations, in accordance with the law.
The gardai pressed ahead with their inquiries and interviewed between 25 and 30 Christian Brothers about the claims. Some of the specific allegations involved "horrendous" sex acts.
The bulk of the complaints came from men who were either resident in this country or in Britain and detectives travelled to take statements from them.
But other complainants came here from as far afield as the US, Canada, Australia, Germany and the Netherlands to lodge their allegations.
A number of the Christian Brothers faced more than one complaint and these were all examined before the first file on sex abuse was sent to the DPP who ruled in favour of a prosecution. The future of the sole criminal prosecution is expected to be determined next month.