Charity wants gardaí to deal with clerical abuse cases

 

ONE IN Four, the charity that provides support for people who have suffered sexual abuse, has said "all discretionary action regarding the safeguarding of children be removed from the church".

Responding to the ongoing controversy about how allegations of clerical sex abuse were handled in Cloyne, the charity said at the weekend that all allegations of sexual abuse should be "referred immediately as a matter of course to the HSE and the gardaí, the only authorities who have the expertise and competence to investigate allegations".

However, Catholic bishops have repeatedly called for changes in legislation to be made in the Republic so they can fully comply with State requests for all information they possess on child sex abuse allegations.

Bishops in cross-Border dioceses have been supplying all such information to the Northern Ireland authorities, while still being unable to do so in the Republic.

Bishop Leo O'Reilly of Kilmore diocese and chairman of the Bishops's Commission on Education, has told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Science in the past that the Catholic Church here was fully in favour of mandatory reporting where this was protected by law and State policy.

He said the Ferns Report (2005) had called for legal changes to be made in relation to reporting of cases and on "executive privilege", to protect those participating in inter-agency groups with gardaí­ and health authorities from potential legal actions relating to suspicions, rumour, innuendo or complaints that were "demonstrably untrue".

He also called for the "introduction of a system of vetting and clearance similar to the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults (Pocva) system operated in Northern Ireland ".

He said an all-island system was required. "Indeed a European-wide system would be welcome," he said.

The Pocva system allows for agencies to share what was described as "soft information" - rumour or anecdotal evidence that a person could pose a danger to children.

Last March, in a submission by the Catholic bishops to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children they described as "a critical area" under consideration by the committee, "the provision of legal authority for the collection and exchange of information relating to the risk or actual occurrence of child sexual abuse".

The Ferns Report recommended that Government should introduce such legislation to facilitate inter-agency exchange of information necessary to assess and manage risk in co-operation with organisations which work with children and young people.