Child rescue alert system issued for the first time
The Garda Child Rescue Ireland alert sign on the Naas dual carriageway. Photograph: Dylan Vaughan
As gardaí searched for Sanjeev Chada and his sons Eoghan and Ruairí, a Child Rescue Ireland alert was issued for the first time since the system was introduced last year.
The alert, modelled on similar systems in other European countries, is designed to enable the Garda Síochána to seek the assistance of the public when it believes a child has been abducted and there is a reasonable belief that there is an immediate and serious risk to the health or welfare of the child.
When an alert is issued, it is broadcast via radio, television, internet and electronic road signs. Drivers across the State would have seen it on digital roadside signs. A number of public transport providers, including Irish Rail, posted the information on their websites.
Under the scheme, the details of missing children are also publicised in health centres, local authority offices, railways and buses.
According to the Garda policy document on the alert system, it can only be issued when four criteria are met. First, the child is under the age of 18 years; second, there is a reasonable belief that the child has been abducted; third, there is a reasonable belief that there is an immediate and serious risk to the health or welfare of the child and finally, there is sufficient information available to enable the public to assist gardaí in locating the child.
A senior member of the force assesses whether these criteria have been met before authorising the CRI alert.
The concept of a warning system for child abductions originated in the United States following the 1996 kidnap and murder of nine-year-old Amber Hagerman. Broadcasters developed the idea of rapidly relaying child abduction information to the public, resulting in the establishment of the US’s Amber Alert programme.
In 2008, members of the European Parliament adopted a declaration calling on member states to introduce a child alert system and to establish co-operative agreements allowing cross-border alerts to be triggered.