JUSTICE Minister Dermot Ahern has defended his department’s handling of a case involving an academic who attempted to indecently assault four teenage US girls.
Senior childcare lecturer Dr Niall McElwee resigned from his position at Athlone Institute of Technology in 2007 as details of his conviction were about to be made public.
A Dutch court had given him a suspended sentence in 2005 after finding him guilty of attempting to indecently assault the four girls in an Amsterdam hotel in June of the previous year.
A report commissioned by the Health Service Executive established the Dutch authorities informed the Department of Justice about the case in July 2004. But the department failed to furnish the information to the Midland Health Board, the Department of Health and Children, or to any agency responsible for third-level education.
Fine Gael spokesman on children Alan Shatter has asked Mr Ahern to explain this failure.
Mr Ahern said the substance of the contact from the Dutch authorities related to whether Dr McElwee, referred to as “Dr A” in the HSE report, could be prosecuted in Ireland rather than the Netherlands.
“The letter did not contain any information about Dr A’s background and in particular did not contain any information concerning his occupation. Accordingly, the question of notifying the Department of Health and Children or other bodies based on the correspondence received could not have arisen.”
Mr Ahern said his department later received a request from the Dutch authorities to serve Dr McElwee with a summons, and did so.
The minister said the unit within his department which handled the matter did not have responsibility for notifying the health or education agencies of the outcome of the case.
“The role of the Central Authority for Mutual Legal Assistance based in my department is to transmit and receive requests for legal assistance for the purposes of criminal investigations or criminal proceedings.
“It does not have a role in relation to the monitoring for other purposes of the ultimate outcome of cases in which mutual assistance requests have been received. This would be neither practical nor within its remit,” he said.
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