Court hearing on diocesan abuse report next month

 

THE HIGH Court is to hear a request from the Minister for Justice next month for direction on whether he can publish the latest report into child abuse in the Catholic Church.

Counsel for the Minister will seek clarification under the Commission of Investigation Act 2004 on whether it is safe to publish the report of the Dublin Archdiocese Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse. It is the first time any Minister has sought direction under the Act. There are fears full disclosure of the inquiry into allegations against a sample 46 priests in the Dublin archdiocese could prejudice the trials of three of them currently facing prosecutions.

Under section 38 of the Act, Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern must seek directions from the High Court if the publication of the report might prejudice any criminal proceedings that are pending or in progress.

Notification of the Minister’s application must also be sent to anyone named in the report who is facing charges in related criminal proceedings.

When the case comes before the High Court in September, counsel for the Minister will make submissions to the court, either in writing or verbally. The court may also take submissions from the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecutions and anyone notified because they are facing related charges. The case may be held in private if the court considers it appropriate.

If the High Court finds that releasing the report could prejudice any criminal proceedings, it can order that part or all of the report shall not be published until the court cases are completed.

This could mean a lengthy delay before the full report becomes public. The earliest date set for the trial of any of the men is April 2010. The inquiry, headed by Judge Yvonne Murphy, was set up in March 2006.

It investigated how child sex abuse allegations against a representative sample of 46 priests were handled by 19 bishops in Dublin between January 1st, 1975, and April 30th, 2004. Seven of the bishops are dead. The report will name 15 priests, 11 who have been convicted in the courts and four who are already well known.

Its eventual publication will follow the devastating findings of the Ryan report published in May. It detailed horrific abuse perpetrated by religious orders in State and church run institutions over several decades.

The revelations, in five volumes, detailed shocking physical, sexual and psychological abuse. Speaking last month, Mr Ahern said though he was anxious that the matters dealt with in the report of the Dublin archdiocese be put in the public domain as quickly as possible, he was concerned that nothing should be done “which would harm the prospects of the perpetrators of these horrific acts of depravity against children being brought to the justice they deserve”.