Probe into claim sexual harassment within Prison Service was covered up

An investigation has been launched following allegations that a serious case of sexual harassment within the Prison Service was covered up.

It is also alleged that the man at the centre of the case has since left the service and is now employed in a State agency where he has contact with minors.

Management at the facility where the male manager is now employed are unaware of the previous incidents.

The allegations came to light as a result of a protected disclosure made to the Department of Justice.

According to the disclosure, a manager in the Prison Service performed sexual acts in front of a female employee without her consent in 2011 and 2012. The woman reported the incidents to management, but when she revealed she had previously been in a relationship with the man, no investigation was conducted, according to the disclosure.

The woman later took a legal action over the sexual acts and the failure to investigate. The case was settled. The Irish Examiner understands the settlement was just short of €100,000.

According to the protected disclosure, the woman was seriously impacted by the events, which resulted in long periods of serious ill health which continue to this day.

The disclosure alleges that when she brought the matter to the attention of management, it was put to her that she had previously been in a relationship with this man and, as a result, management “did not treat her sensitively and failed to treat her allegations seriously”.

The disclosure also alleges that, once the woman’s claims were corroborated by the State Claims Agency, the Prison Service was “advised that, to avoid serious embarrassment to the Prison Service, that the case should not reach court”.

The disclosure said: “In approximately 2016, the case was settled in favour of the woman and a significant settlement was made to her.”

The Irish Examiner has established that the man and the woman have both since left the Prison Service.

Three sources in the service have confirmed the woman was involved in litigation with it. It has also been established that the man at the centre of the allegations has been working for an agency which deals with minors.

The disclosure also alleges that the failure to inform the management of the agency where the man now works of his history “exposes the State to adverse findings from national and international bodies who monitor the centre”.

The protected disclosure was made anonymously, as provided for in Protected Disclosures Act 2014.

The discloser does conclude the document by stating “I have reasonable belief as to the wrongdoings as outlined above and that these wrongdoings have come to my attention in connection with my employment.”

The Department of Justice has confirmed receipt of the disclosure, which is dated September 20.

However, a spokesman refused to answer any questions about the nature of the investigation, the proposed timeframe, or whether a person outside the department has been appointed to investigate.

In response to a series of questions, a spokesman said: “Action is being taken in relation to this correspondence in line with the proper procedures. The department is not in a position to comment further.”

The disclosure was copied to four other departments on the basis that some of the allegations would come under their remit.

The departments notified were the Taoiseach’s department, the Department for Children and Youth Affairs, the Department of Finance, and the Department of Business, Enterprise, and Innovation.

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