The Garda Commissioner has described as “unacceptable” the Garda failures that led to the dropping of charges against a teenager for the rape of two girls aged seven and eight.
However, she and her senior officers insisted safeguards were in place to prevent a repeat of the mistakes, which were the subject of Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission investigation.
They were quizzed on the findings of the GSOC investigation at meeting of the Policing Authority. Authority member and law lecturer Vicky Conway said the finding were “alarming”, particularly given how young the victims were.
GSOC found that the case, reported in 2008, was initially investigated properly but the investigating sergeant was transferred after six months and the case was left in limbo for three years.
It was several years before one of the victims was even interviewed and while a file was eventually sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the teenager was charged, the move was challenged in the High Court which ruled the case should be thrown out because of the unjustified delays.
Dr Conway said: “The authority is deeply concerned by these findings given the severity of the allegations concerned and the vulnerability of the victims in this cases.
“What happens today if somebody is transferred? What happens to their cases and can we be assured that there would not be a three year delay in reassigning a case in such a serious criminal investigation?”
Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan said it was unacceptable that a case such as this had happened.
“In fixing the problem we want to make sure that we recognise and understand the impact that cases such as this have on the victim and any failings are identified and fixed as soon as possible.”
Chief Superintendent Michael Flynn told the meeting that since November last year a new case management system had been put in place to improve accountability.
“We now have a dedicated investigating member and a dedicated supervisor for every investigation that we’re conducting and if any of those members are transferred or retire then that caseload is allocated to another individual so that none of those cases can fall through the cracks like they did in the past,” he said.
Assistant Commissioner John O’Driscoll said the mistakes made were rare.
“This is a case that went astray but it is one of 200,000 cases since the youth diversion programme was established,” he said.
Assistant Commissioner Jack Nolan added that, at the time of the offences, there was no automated system to monitor the juvenile diversion programme.
“In 2010, an automated juvenile liaison officers scheme was put in place and every JLO officer has access to that, as has the National Juvenile Office so there is an automated system which triggers to supervisors that a juvenile is involved in a particular crime or is a victim of a crime,” he said.
He also said the system was under review but all gardaí now had training under the Children First guidelines and around 200 members had been specially trained to interview children.
“It’s a different space where we are today and hopefully we would not have an incident like this again,” said Mr Nolan.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved