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Top garda to investigate if abusers can face charges

AN assistant garda commissioner has been appointed to examine the report of the Commission into Child Abuse and determine if new avenues of criminal investigation can be opened up.

Legal steps are also being taken to "clear" the criminal records of those sent by the courts to institutions run by religious orders.

The move was ordered by Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy after discussions with Justice Minister Dermot Ahern.

Assistant Commissioner Derek Byrne, who is in charge of the force's national units, will carry out the review of the five-volume report. Commissioner Murphy said the review would take some time to complete.

As the commission's inquiry was non-statutory, victims who participated in its evidence-gathering were treated in confidence and the report names neither victims nor offenders. Any new investigation will therefore require huge manpower.

Since the publication of the report last week, meanwhile, a woman in the Diocese of Cloynes has levelled new clerical abuse allegations leading to a middle-aged priest taking administrative leave.

The woman, who alleges she was sexually assaulted by a cleric almost 25 years ago, is said to have been prompted to come forward by disgust at the scale of revelations in the report.

But gardai said last night there was no indication of a general upsurge in complaints about clerical abuse.

Relatively few in a series of separate garda inquiries into abuse allegations, meanwhile, have resulted in convictions.

In a large number of cases, the alleged offenders had died or there was insufficient evidence for the DPP to prosecute. Lawyers pointed out that in cases of rape and sexual abuse, the time lapse was crucial from an evidential viewpoint.

The minister said yesterday that he had also held discussions with Attorney General Paul Gallagher on examining ways of expunging the criminal records of victims.


But security sources said many of those sent to the institutions by the courts did not have criminal records, as they believed, but were dealt with by the civil courts.

Mr Ahern welcomed the comments of senior clergymen, who said the compensation deal agreed with the religious orders should be revisited. He believed there was a moral duty on the orders to come forward and respond.

Fine Gael and Labour last night called for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the child abuse.

Fine Gael's justice spokesman Charlie Flanagan said the appointment would serve a useful function.

Labour's justice spokesman Pat Rabbitte said it would meet with broad public approval, if it could be made legally secure.

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