Garda units help improve child abuse probes

GARDAÍ have set up a number of dedicated child protection units to improve the investigation and tracking of child abuse cases.

The move follows concerns raised by the independent Garda Inspectorate regarding the lack of communication between the force and the Health Service Executive.

Sergeant John Gordon of the child protection unit in Dublin’s north inner city said the unit ensures every child abuse case is investigated thoroughly.

He said his unit, one of five in the Dublin region, was set up last August. The unit tracks every investigation to conclusion, which he said was particularly important.

“Tracking has been a particular problem in the past, tracking and maintaining communication between agencies.”

The unit holds bimonthly meetings with the local head of the HSE, at which they “troubleshoot” particular cases, including ones that would tend to reach media headlines.

Sgt Gordon said the meetings were “very successful” and were set up following criticisms raised by the Garda Inspectorate. “One of the biggest problems was lack of communication with the HSE.”

He said many cases in the past could have been closed earlier if such communication existed. There had been a “significant decrease” in the duration time of investigations.

Sgt Gordon was speaking at a workshop on justice and policing hosted by Young People At Risk and attended by around 100 representatives of voluntary, community and state agencies. Assistant Commissioner for Dublin Mick Feehan also attended.

Local Chief Superintendent Pat Leahy said a scheme they had set up to track and intervene with prolific offenders had now been adopted nationally.

Of the 220-225 people on the case management scheme, more than 70 were children, he said.

Marie Metcalfe of the Community Policing Forum said the forum was first set up in 1999 in the wake of anti-drug marches in the city, when relationships between the community and gardaí was very low.

She said that through the forum they now had a “good relationship” with local gardaí, from garda rank all the way up to assistant commissioner.

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