Foster parents take court challenge over decision to notify gardaí of claims against them

The couple were informed by the Child and Family Agency that it was initiating a process under its child abuse substantiation procedure

A couple who have fostered children in State care have brought High Court challenges against a notification by the Child and Family Agency (CFA), also known as Tusla, that they may be a risk to children and vulnerable people. Photograph: Bryan O'Brien

A couple who have fostered children in State care have brought High Court challenges against a notification by the Child and Family Agency (CFA), also known as Tusla, that they may be a risk to children and vulnerable people.

Last year, following the conclusion of a foster placement, the couple were informed by the CFA the CFA (also known as Tusla) that, following allegations against them, it was initiating a process under its child abuse substantiation procedure.

The first stage of that process is to assess whether the allegations made have been substantiated.

As part of this process the couple, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were informed that the CFA was making a notification to the Garda vetting bureau about the allegations against them, which include child abuse.

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The couple, who deny any wrongdoing, claim the details of the allegations have not been provided to them.

Through their lawyers they have questioned the CFA’s authority to make a notification to the vetting bureau before the first stage of the process has been completed.

The court heard the CFA has said in correspondence that it made the notification based on bona-fide concerns it has about the couple and because of its obligations under national vetting laws.

The CFA said the notification does not involve a determination of facts, but the agency does have a legal obligation to notify the bureau of specified information.

The couple do not accept these arguments and have brought separate but related High Court proceedings claiming the CFA has acted outside of its statutory authority and unlawfully. They want the notification withdrawn.

They claim the vetting laws do not provide any statutory basis for such notifications being made.

Represented by Dr Ciaran Craven SC and Aisling Mulligan BL, the couple seek various orders and declarations against the CFA, including an order quashing the notifications.

They also seek various declarations to the effect that the notifications were made without lawful authority and that the 2012 National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act does not provide statutory authority for the notifications.

They further seek declarations that irrelevant considerations were taken into account and that the CFA’s own policies for the making such notification was breached.

The matters both came before Ms Justice Niamh Hyland on Monday. The judge, on an ex parte basis, granted the applicants permission to bring their actions.

The cases will return before the court next month.