Garda Commissioner admits gardai failed to properly investigate child sex abuse case
“That shouldn’t have happened, that family deserved a far better response"
The Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris, acknowledged, Thursday, that children were put at risk after a member of the gardai failed to properly investigate allegations of serious child sex abuse.
Details of a specific complaint about the garda handling of the allegations were revealed in the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) 2021 annual report, published today.
GSOC reported that a Garda member was found “in breach of discipline” and sanctioned accordingly “for failure to properly investigate allegations of childhood sexual abuse” as well as a “failure to communicate with the victim on the progress of the investigation”.
The alleged victim reported the allegations to Greater Manchester Police (GMP), which, in turn referred the matter to gardai, as the complaint was in relation to incidents which occurred in Ireland.
“It became apparent that after GMP had sent a comprehensive report to the Gardaí there was a protracted period where very little action was taken to conduct an investigation or to deal with the suspected offender, thereby leaving him to remain a risk to children,” GSOC stated.
GSOC investigated after a complaint was made and prepared a report about the garda handling of the allegations, “and the Garda member concerned was found to be in breach of the Garda Discipline Regulations for neglect of duty on two counts”.
Speaking at the passing out of 102 new Gardai at the Garda Training College in Templemore, Co Tipperary, Commissioner Harris said he “entirely accepts” Gardai failed to properly investigate the matter.
“That shouldn’t have happened, that family deserved a far better response, so in no way am I saying that it was good enough, I’m not even remotely suggesting that,” said Commissioner Harris.
“There was an individual failure, so we don’t accept that it was good enough ourselves, and we have addressed that,” he said.
Asked if he accepted GSOC findings that children were left “at risk” due to garda inaction in the case, Mr Harris replied: “Yes, we acknowledge that, and we take that very very seriously”.
The Commissioner said it was another “learning” curve for gardai, and that measures, such as extra resources in “specialist officers” trained in dealing with child sex abuse cases had been put in place to try to prevent similar failures.
Complaints to GSOC about individual gardai rose by 12% on 2020, and garda referrals increased by 40% following incidents involving death or serious harm.
Sixty findings of gardai breaching discipline resulted in internal sanctions, and five criminal cases were decided in court, involving gardai charged with sexual assault, assault, and theft.
Other charges brought against Gardai in 2021, following GSOC investigations, include breaches of the Road Traffic Acts, and the provision of false information.
Commenting on the increase in complains, Commoner Harris said he was “very concerned about making sure the behaviour of gardai is of the highest standard and that any garda should in effect be trusted to the ends of the earth”.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee told reporters she was “not overly concerned” about the increase in complaints against Garda members.
“I do genuinely think that a lot of it is the fact that more people are coming forward because they’re aware of GSOC,” added Minister McEntee.
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