25 rape victims meet gardaí, DPP over threat to cases

THE 25 rape victims whose criminal cases may be thrown out due to a nurse’s failure to register with the nursing board met with gardaí and the DPP yesterday to discuss the consequences for their cases.

The HSE has launched a full investigation into how the woman was able to work at the Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU) at Letterkenny General Hospital for 18 months without registering with An Bord Altranais.

The nurse carried out forensic examinations at the unit and due to her failure to register, the forensic evidence may not now be available to their court cases.

The payment of an annual €88 registration to An Bord Altranais is mandatory if you wish to practise as a nurse in this country. The nurse had been taken off the register in 2009 and, as per procedure, the HSE and Minister for Children were informed of all persons removed from the register. However, the information never arrived at the SATU.

It has emerged that the nurse had left her post at SATU two weeks before it was discovered at local level that she was not registered.

According to director of nursing Dr Anne Flood, the matter was discovered on March 23 as part of an audit into nurses. The rape victims were only informed about the problem yesterday. The Irish Nurses Organisation refused to comment on the matter yesterday and An Bord Altranais said it doesn’t comment on individual cases.

A review team from the HSE has been at Letterkenny General Hospital for the past week and will return to Dublin to compile a report which is expected within two months.

“The reason that the serious incident management team within the HSE has appointed a team is to find out why it happened and ensure it does not happen in the future.”

Dr Flood would not divulge why the woman was no longer working at the unit two weeks before it was discovered she was not registered.

“We cannot go into the reason why she was not at her post but it was an unrelated issue,” she said.

The Rape Crisis Network said yesterday that the 25 victims were still “reeling in shock” after the news was broken to them by the gardaí and HSE officials on Wednesday.

RCNI executive director Fiona Neary has accused the HSE of “betraying these rape victims”.

“The RCNI are angered and deeply dismayed by this incident. The RCNI have fought for almost a decade to ensure the HSE provide adequate SATUs throughout the country and that they adhere to the highest standards and operate in the best interest of the survivor,” she said.

More in this section