Tusla gets DVDs of children’s sex abuse allegations

CCLRP's Carol Coulter said some cases spent 50 days in court.

Tusla succeeded in securing access to DVDs of garda interviews in which children alleged they were sexually abused by their parents, despite claims by gardaí that releasing the material could compromise its criminal investigation.

The case is one of 22 contained in the latest Child Care Law Reporting Project (CCLRP) reports, outlining serious issues of alleged sex abuse of children and the difficulty in some cases of securing adequate resources.

In the case centring on the DVD copies of garda interviews with children alleging abuse, the district court judge deciding on the matter said such interviews should be conducted jointly by gardaí and Tusla, not least to avoid potential child victims of abuse having to undergo a second interview by a separate state organisation.

Two school-age children were taken into care on neglect grounds in 2014 but subsequently alleged sexual abuse by their parents. A third child was then taken into care at birth.

The interviews alleging abuse were recorded onto DVD and gardaí said they were preparing a file for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Tusla sought a court order for the sharing of the garda DVDs with an independent expert, named staff, and a specialist transcription service, but this was opposed in court by gardaí who said it might “compromise the investigation into a very serious case”. 

Ultimately, the judge granted the Tusla application.

In a separate case, a judge ruled against an application to have five children returned to the care of their parents, instead finding as fact that the children had been sexually abused and neglected.

The judge heard from 23 witnesses for Tusla, among others, while the parents called an independent forensic psychologist from another jurisdiction who questioned the evidence from the specialist sex abuse clinic attended by the children. 

The court also heard that the parents had themselves been abused by their parents.

CCLRP project director Carol Coulter said one feature in the cases was their duration, with some stretching to 50 days in court, spread over months or years.

They also showed difficulties in some cases in securing appropriate ‘step-down’ placements for children who no longer need to be detained. Dr Coulter said of the cases: “There are no easy answers to the problems they raise.”

A case in the Minors’ Review List in the High Court involved an Irish teenager being prescribed a medication in a medium secure psychiatric hospital in the UK, despite her treating psychiatrist having deemed her fit for discharge.

In another case, a social worker outlined child protection concerns, including rat infestation of the family home, arson attacks, and fabricated child abduction, leading to a full care order for 12 months for two young children.

Elsewhere, a teenage girl who spent nine months in a secure detention unit without receiving a psychiatric assessment made a serious attempt at suicide within one month of discharge and was subsequently admitted to a mental health unit.

www.childlawproject.ie

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