Garda ombudsman seeks report into removal of children
Gsoc will review report compiled for Justice Minister before taking position
Media gather yesterday outside Tallaght Garda station in west Dublin, where a seven year-old Roma girl was taken before she was put into care after being taken from her family. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
The Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission has written to Minister for Justice Alan Shatter asking for a report from Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan into the circumstances around the removal of two children from their homes over concerns about their parentage.
The commission, which investigates complaints made against members of the Garda, has not yet begun an official investigation into the cases.
However, when the Garda report for Mr Shatter is completed in the next fortnight, it plans to study its findings and will then decide if the matters it raises warrant investigation.
The commission mostly investigates cases where members of the public make complaints about individual gardaí. It can also decide of its own volition to begin an inquiry in the public interest into any matter involving the Garda force. In those cases, it does not need to receive a complaint before it acts.
A spokesman for the commission said it was monitoring events at this time.
“The Garda Ombudsman has today written to the Minister for Justice and Equality requesting a copy of the report that the Garda Commissioner has been asked to provide to the Minister,” he said. “We are requesting this in order to inform ourselves fully of the circumstances surrounding these events so that we can take an appropriate position.”
Investigations by the ombudsman can exonerate gardaí or implicate them in wrongdoing, which can result in a range of sanctions from internal disciplinary punishments such as a fine, up to and including criminal convictions and dismisal.
Investigations can also result in recommendations by Gsoc aimed at improving Garda procedures.
Yesterday, after the seven-year-old girl and two-year-old boy at the centre of the cases were reunited with their families, Mr Shatter said he had asked Mr Callinan to have a report prepared outlining the facts of the cases.
Mr Shatter said he wanted to review the processes that led to the removal of the children, who were briefly placed into the care of the HSE, or order than any deficiencies in procedures for such cases could be addressed.
He told the Seanad last night gardaí had “a very important role in dealing with children protection issues... and circumstances do arise where for the protection of children” it is necessary for the Gardai to intervene and take them to a safe place.
“I have no doubt that the gardaí acted in this instance in good faith in the intervention that took place,” he said of the two cases.
In both cases the children were taken from their families, members of the Roma community, by gardaí acting on concerns about the parentage of the children.
In the first case, a seven-year-girl was removed from her home in south west Dublin on Monday evening after Garda members from a child protection unit spent a number of hours in the house.
The gardaí were not satisfied by a birth certificate and passport produced for the child at the house. When gardaí checked claims by the parents the child was born on a specific date in April 2006 at a Dublin maternity hospital, no record of the birth could be found in the hospital’s records.
It was at that point that the girl was removed from the home and placed into the care of the HSE. However, it later emerged the child had been registered under a variation of the name supplied by the parents.
The child was returned to her family last evening after 48 hours when DNA tests proved she was the couple’s biological daughter.
In the second case, a two-year-old boy was removed by gardaí from his family home on Tuesday evening in the Midlands.
His father was invited down to the local Garda station and on arrival was informed his son was being taken from him after concerns had been expressed, by a member of the public, that the boy was not the biological child of the man and his wife as they insisted.
The child was placed by the gardaí into the care of the HSE but was returned his parents just before lunchtime yesterday.