Child and Family Agency Tusla has “grave concerns” concerning the risks posed by a convicted sex offender to three of his children, a social worker has told a court.
In the case, the agency is seeking an interim care order (ICO) to remove the children from the family home and put them into foster care.
The children’s father was convicted in 1999 of the sexual abuse in 1995 of two girls under the age of 12 and he received a four-year suspended prison sentence.
At a family law district court hearing on Thursday, the court was also told three of the man’s sisters made complaints of a sexual nature against him and that case was dismissed in court in 1982 under the Probation Act.
The man’s 1999 conviction was two years prior to the introduction of the 2001 Sex Offenders Act and he is therefore not a registered sex offender.
In the case, Tusla only acted after an adult son of the man from a previous relationship made a disclosure in 2018 expressing his concern for the risk posed by his father to the three children aged under the age of 15.
The court heard the children’s mother didn’t know about the previous conviction and was “genuinely shocked” to find out about her partner’s sexually deviant past.
The children's parents are contesting the ICO application.
The social worker said Tusla was making the application “as an absolutely last resort”.
“Our department can’t ignore the specialised assessment by two experts that outlines the grave concerns over the current and active risk that the father poses to children, including his own and the mother has an inability to accept that risk and safeguard the children.”
The social worker said the mother has “struggled to believe that her husband posed a risk to the children and continued to support him in wanting him to return to the family home notwithstanding all of the concerns”.
She said she has worked intensively with the family but “it is with regret that we are here today seeking that the children be removed from the home. It is quite sad that the children have been unable to be protected by their parents.”
The father moved out of the family home in March 2019 after Tusla raised their childcare concerns and as part of a safety plan for the children, the father is not allowed access to his children.
The social worker said the children “are worried and frightened and don’t want to leave their home”.
The social worker said one of the children has told her “that she doesn’t want to leave and doesn’t want to be punished for what their dad has done in the past”.
She said the children are a credit to their mother and are very well cared for, very well behaved, have good manners and do well in school.
She said it is clear the couple love their three children and a report presented to court showed the children’s mother loves their father, stating “I wouldn’t be without him for the world”.
However, the social worker said the mother contravened the safety plan for the children by colluding with her husband to bring the children to his new home on multiple occasions and lied about the visits to Tusla and told the children to lie to social workers about the visits.
The father has not seen his children since last September.
The social worker said the father's level of minimisation and denial over his past sexual offences “only heightens our concerns that we would not able to protect the children”.
She said the relationship between the couple became sexualised when the woman was aged 16 and the man was in his 30s. “Our department has grave concerns that the woman was a young and vulnerable girl and would have been groomed by this man.” She said the woman’s father didn’t approve of the relationship and she didn’t get a site as a result.
The social worker said despite the man not telling his partner about his past, “she remains in a sexual relationship with him and continues to support and advocate on his behalf to allow him see his children and to return to the family home”.
The court heard the woman told an expert she never had any concerns about her partner and their children until the issue of the previous conviction came to light.
She said after hearing of the previous conviction, she still has no concerns, saying: “The kids love being with their dad. We have worked so hard to raise the children.”
The court was told a cognitive assessment of the mother places her on borderline learning disability level.
Counsel for Tusla Catherine McLoone said gardaí were making efforts to have the father now registered as a sexual offender “because of the threat that is believed that he is posing”.
The social worker said the father did attend the Granada Institute for sex offender treatment one hour a week for six weeks in 2000 after his conviction.
She said this course “was not enough to change a deep-rooted attraction to children”.
She said the father “continues to be dishonest and continues to deny that he was sexually motivated to abuse the young girls in 1999, despite receiving a conviction, and denies and minimises”.
The social worker said she has highlighted Tusla's concerns about the father in a child-appropriate way with the children.
The court was told one report on the man stated he has a low to moderate risk of re-offending and that he hasn’t come to Garda attention since the 1999 conviction.
The case continues on Friday.