Garda vetting for homeless care workers to be reviewed following Flynn allegations

Drew Harris says file will be prepared on case ‘so that the matter is properly reported’

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said Garda vetting is an intrusive process, meaning ‘there is strict criteria on who can be vetted and who is not vetted’. Photograph: Alan Betson/ The Irish Times

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said Garda vetting is an intrusive process, meaning ‘there is strict criteria on who can be vetted and who is not vetted’. Photograph: Alan Betson/ The Irish Times

 

The Garda is to review its vetting procedures surrounding workers who assist homeless people following accusations of serious sexual assault against the head of a prominent charity.

Anthony Flynn was the chief executive officer of Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) prior to his death in tragic circumstances last month. According to a report published this week, he was the subject of four allegations of sexual assault by people who had availed of the charity’s services.

Mr Flynn was suspended from his position shortly before his death for not disclosing that he was being investigated by the Garda for sexual assault.

Charity workers who assist homeless people do not typically have to be Garda vetted. Speaking on Friday, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said that “in light of this incident, we will obviously have to review that”.

He said that vetting is an intrusive process, meaning “there is strict criteria on who can be vetted and who is not vetted”. But homeless people can be regarded as “particularly vulnerable”, he said.

“That may be an area that needs resolution. Certainly we’re looking into that.”

Mr Harris said the death of the chief suspect means the case is not going to go to court. However a file will still be prepared “so that the matter is properly reported. And also so that we can ensure the learnings in respect of vetting. And also for victims, so we can point them towards support services.”

Regarding the improper cancellation of 999 calls by gardaí, Mr Harris said he is “disappointed” 53 calls have been improperly cancelled since the issue first came to light. These were minor calls which would have been cancelled anyway, he said. However they should have been cancelled by a supervisor.

“The calls were all dealt with. The issue is that the process we put in place was not adhered to. That process needs to be strictly applied,” he said.

A Policing Authority investigation into the improper cancelled of thousands more calls is ongoing.

The commissioner was speaking at a ceremony to award bravery medals to gardaí involved in the rescue of supermarket executive Don Tidey almost 38 years ago.

Asked why is has taken so long for the medals to be awarded, Mr Harris acknowledged it has been a long time.

He said for many years the focus has been on the investigation of the kidnapping and subsequent murder of Garda Gary Sheehan and Army Private Patrick Kelly.

The matter is now the subject of a “serious case review”. This will involve the review of existing documentation and an examination of how advances in forensics may progress the investigation, Mr Harris said.

Three people have been convicted of offences related to the kidnapping but no one has been charged the murders of Gda Sheehan and Pvt Kelly.