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Sunday 17 December 2017

Woman to sue State as 'deficiencies' found in handling of allegations of parental sex abuse

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald Picture: Kyran O'Brien
Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald Picture: Kyran O'Brien
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) investigation has found deficiencies in how gardaí investigated allegations by a woman who claimed she was physically and sexually abused as a child by her parents.

It found one garda, who has since died, did not act correctly in response to an allegation of assault in 1988.

GSOC also made a recommendation that disciplinary action be considered by the force in relation to at least one other garda.

The woman is now planning a High Court action against the force and health authorities, alleging they mishandled her complaints.

The parents at the centre of the case are in their 60s and live in Co Monaghan.

Both have convictions for assault and threatening behaviour against individuals outside their family, but the Director of Public Prosecutions decided in 2014 not to pursue child abuse charges against them due to a lack of evidence.

The woman's complaint was one of around 320 cases examined under an independent review mechanism set up by the Department of Justice to consider allegations of Garda misconduct or inadequacies.

She alleged gardaí were negligent in dealing with her complaints and engaged in "cover-ups".

Following a recommendation from a barrister working on the independent review team, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has requested information on the handling of the case from Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan.

The woman who made the complaint has expressed concerns to authorities about her parents having ongoing access to their young grandchildren and is seeking a fresh inquiry.

In her GSOC complaint, she said the abuse she received from both parents involved physical and sexual violence, emotional abuse and neglect.

She said the abuse began when she was four and involved daily beatings, leaving her with heavy bruising and cuts. She alleged she was kept home from school for periods and made to do housework.

The woman said the abuse intensified during her teenage years and she attempted to run away from home several times before finally leaving the family home for good.

She said she suffered from a chronic post-traumatic stress disorder as a result.

According to a complaint filed with the HSE, a referral was made by her school to child protection services in the mid-1980s, when she was 14. It is alleged a social worker who came to the family home was physically thrown out by the woman's mother and verbally abused by both parents.

The complaint alleged the HSE did not do a follow-up on the referral from the school.

However, the complaint was not upheld by Tusla. A review of the case by the child and family agency last year said social work staff had attempted to assess the situation, but were limited in their ability to intervene in family life.

"While certainly there would be a different response to such concerns today, the matter must be viewed in the context of social work intervention at the time, and no specific practitioner can be singled out for failing to act," the Tusla official who conducted the review found.

Irish Independent

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