Report highlights delays in child cases

It took gardaí a year to interview children over suspected sex abuse

It took specialist gardaí over a year to interview children about suspected sex abuse and, in the meantime, the children were returned by social services to live in a house with abusers, the latest Childcare Law Report Project (CCLRP) report has shown.

The four children were initially put into short-term care because of suspected neglect, non-attendance at school and medical appointments, and parental drug and alcohol abuse.

However, sexualised behaviour was reported and child protection notifications were made to the gardaí and to a child sex abuse assessment unit. After the two older children disclosed rape by a relative, the children were assessed by the unit and deemed credible witnesses.

However, the garda child specialist assessment still had not been taken place due to extended waiting lists. In the meantime, the two young children had returned to the family home under a supervision order.

When the older children divulged to gardaí that the parents had sexually abused all four children, a care order was made.

The case continues.

The CCLRP yesterday published its analysis of 20 cases from 2015, bringing to 39 the number of cases published this year.

The length of time it takes for these urgent childcare cases to be heard was also highlighted in yesterday’s tranche of reports.

One care order case took 68 days in the District Court, with the judge saying it “raised serious questions as to whether the District Court has systems in place for serious child care cases.”

These full care order proceedings had already been preceded by prolonged interim care order proceedings, so the whole case took two and a half years.

The director of the CCLRP, Carol Coulter, said the reports “reveal the difficulties that arise in certain cases, especially those involving allegations of child sex abuse, when there are disputes about the admissibility of hearsay evidence and when Garda and other interviews with children are the subject of criticism”.

“In several of these cases there were lengthy delays in interviewing the children about the allegations,” said Dr Coulter. “We hope that the State agencies involved in these cases can learn from these detailed reports.”

Another case highlighted the impact that drug abuse and homelessness is having on children, with one child who had been subject to a care order for 14 months being later put in care until the age of 18.

The child’s mother, who was described by social workers as having “a beautiful relationship with her son” and “innate parenting skills” had descended into chronic addiction after the initial short care order and was living in a tent. The mother, the child of a drug addict herself, did not turn up at the second hearing as her addiction had taken such a grip.

The guardian ad litem told the court that if the mother had been “given half a chance when she was a very young child who knows where she would be now?”

According to the CCLRP, these reports also demonstrate that once care proceedings are initiated, it is not inevitable that the child will be subject to a full care order.


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