abuse probe | 

Gardaí complete investigation into alleged rape of woman at disability centre during lockdown

Mother of resident had flagged concerns about the man and removed her

The care facility is a private voluntary service but gets HSE funds

Maeve SheehanSunday Independent

Gardaí have completed an investigation into allegations that a carer raped a young woman with an intellectual disability in a residential centre during the Covid-19 lock-down.

The garda investigation into the alleged rape is now draws to a close after more than a year. following extensive specialist interviews with the woman, who has autism and a moderate learning disability and who faces significant communication challenges.

A file on the case is expected to go to the DPP shortly.

The rape and sexual assaults are alleged to have happened during the pandemic in 2021, when the country was in lockdown, visiting restrictions were in force, and the woman had limited access to her family.

The carer who is accused of the alleged offences was suspended from his position after the woman disclosed the allegations to her family.

She had been living in the residential centre for about 10 months.

Records seen by this newspaper reveal that even before she disclosed the abuse, the woman’s mother had flagged concerns about her daughter’s behaviour around the carer.

The mother had also raised concerns that the carer in question was supervising male and female residents of the facility while alone on night duty, with no other staff member present.

She also raised concerns about her daughter’s anxiety during the Covid-19 lockdown, and the effect the visiting restrictions were having on her.

As a result of these concerns, the woman’s family took her home for a period.

During this time at home in late 2021, the woman told her mother about the alleged abuse and later made further disclosures, including the allegation that she was raped.

A GP also raised concerns about possible abuse.

Gardaí from the Divisional Protective Services Unit have been investigating the case since.

The units, now established in all Garda divisions, specialise in the investigation of sexual crimes and other offences involving vulnerable victims.

The care facility, a private voluntary service funded by the HSE, has commissioned an external investigation of the case. That investigation is understood to be continuing.

The centre cannot be identified for legal reasons.​

Junior Minister for Disabilities Anne Rabbitte has met the mother of the woman and an advocacy group supporting her family to discuss the safeguarding concerns arising from the case.

Junior Minister Anne Rabbitte

Majella Beattie, chair of advocacy group Care Champions, said the case has highlighted significant gaps in the justice system for people with an intellectual disability who are victims of crime.

These include the interview process, having a trusted person present in the interview room, and how interview questions are posed.

She said safeguarding measures needed to be introduced to ensure adults with intellectual disabilities or cognitive impairments were afforded the same access to justice as others.

“These specialist interviews can be very difficult for any adult with an intellectual disability, requiring them to be interviewed by strangers and in the absence of a trusted person such as a family member,” Ms Beattie said.

“As sympathetic as the gardaí are, they can only do what is in their gift in the law as it stands at the moment.”

The group called for the new gender-based violence strategy and any forthcoming safeguarding legislation “to recognise the unique needs of people who may not be able to speak up and report alleged abuse”.

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