Statutory basis for vetting
LEGAL UPDATE:THE NATIONAL Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Bill 2012 was published on July 20th, 2012.
When enacted, this Bill will establish on a statutory basis vetting and disclosure procedures for persons intending to work with children or vulnerable adults.
At present, Garda vetting is carried out on a non-statutory basis. The Garda Central Vetting Unit deals with requests from organisations which register with the unit to vet certain prospective employees. Vetting is already mandatory in specific circumstances under legislation such as the Child Care Act 1991 and the Child Care Regulations 2006, the Teaching Council Act 2001, the Taxi Regulation Act 2003 and the Private Security Services Act 2004.
Vetting procedures are not clearly laid out in such legislation and there is no legal basis for the gardaí to disclose “soft” information – details on a person gathered in an inquiry but where there is no conviction for a criminal offence.
Under the Bill, the National Vetting Bureau (the new name to be given to the Garda Central Vetting Unit) will be required to establish a database consisting of a register of relevant organisations, a register of specified information and a register of vetted persons. This is in addition to the records of criminal convictions which the Garda already holds.
Relevant organisations are those which take on employees or volunteers to work with children or vulnerable persons. Such bodies are required to apply to the bureau for registration. A relevant organisation shall not be required to register where another relevant organisation, registered with the bureau, submits applications for vetting disclosures on its behalf. This will allow groups such as schools to submit applications through a representative body.
In the Bill, soft information is referred to as specified information. This is information held by the Garda or a body specified in schedule 2 of the Bill which reasonably gives rise to a bona fide concern a person may harm a child or vulnerable person.
The disclosure of soft information is tightly controlled, and the Bill seeks to balance the rights of those subject to vetting to the protection of their good name and the rights of children and vulnerable adults to be protected from persons likely to cause them harm.
A person may not be engaged to perform relevant work or activities relating to children or vulnerable persons unless they have been subject to vetting procedures under the Bill. Failure to comply with this duty is an offence under the Bill. It will be a defence for a person to show that he or she did not know, nor could reasonably be expected to know, that the work for which a person was engaged constituted relevant work or activity.
The Bill sets out details which must be included in an application for a vetting disclosure. This includes a declaration by the subject of the vetting disclosure that he or she consents to the making of the application, and disclosure.