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Saturday, July 21, 2012
Employers will face up to five years in jail if they fail to seek Garda vetting for an employee who works with children.
A bill published yesterday also breaks legal ground in allowing gardaí to store and share information with organisations about a person who is considered to pose a risk to children, but who has not been convicted of such a crime.
Children’s agencies have welcomed the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Bill 2011, but said more resources will be needed to implement the new system and cope with the greater number of people requiring vetting.
Earlier this week, the Irish Examiner reported that the Garda vetting unit had 40,000 applications on hand waiting to be processed.
Publishing the bill, Justice Minister Alan Shatter said it will make it mandatory for people working with children or vulnerable adults to be vetted by the gardaí.
"When enacted this bill will make it mandatory for persons working with children or vulnerable adults to be vetted by the Gardaí," he said. "There will also be criminal penalties for any employer who fails to do so."
The bill provides a statutory framework for the existing system of vetting and also sets the Garda vetting unit up on a statutory basis, which will be known as the National Vetting Bureau.
Organisations working with children will be obliged to register with the bureau and appoint a liaison person. They will be obliged to seek vetting before they hire a person who will work with children on a regular basis.
Employers who fail to comply with these provisions, and related ones, will be liable to up to 12 months in prison and/or a fine on summary conviction in the district court. If convicted on indictment before the circuit court they face up to five years jail and/or a maximum fine of €10,000.
The bill also allows gardaí to store so-called relevant information or "soft information" and share this information with employers. This is information short of a criminal conviction which results from a formal investigation by gardaí or a specified body where there is genuine evidence a person is likely to cause harm to a child or vulnerable adult.
Maria Corbett of Children’s Rights Alliance welcomed the bill: "We believe, if enacted this bill will create a comprehensive and effective vetting system, significantly strengthen our child protection and safe recruitment practices."
She said it seemed from an initial examination of the bill that previous key concerns they had raised had been addressed.
Ms Corbett said the bill will broaden the requirement for vetting and said a programme would have to be put in place to set the system up.
"There will definitely be a need for an increase in resources and capabilities to deliver on this fully," she said.
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