Most investigations into alleged crimes at mother and baby homes closed

Complaints include claims of sexual and physical abuse and illegal medical treatments

Almost two-thirds of complaints to gardaí about alleged crimes relating to mother and baby homes have been closed, with no charges being considered.

Following the publication last year of the report of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation, which detailed widespread abuse and an “appalling level of infant mortality” across 14 homes, gardaí issued an appeal for anyone with information on alleged criminal activity to come forward.

The appeal was made after gardaí determined they could not open a criminal investigation on the basis of the report alone, which did not identify individual victims or offenders.

Since April 2021, 85 complaints have been made to the Garda National Protective Services Bureau (GNPSB) where a dedicated team is handling investigations.

However, efforts to progress investigations have been frustrated by difficulties in tracking down victims. In at least nine cases, the complaints were made by third parties and gardaí were unable to track down the victim.

Fifty-three of the 85 cases have now been closed. Among the reasons for cases being closed were victims declining to engage with gardaí, gardaí being unable to identify or get in contact with victims and gardaí being unable to identify potential criminal behaviour in the complaints.

Thirty-two cases remain open and "and are subject to further engagement or investigation, where warranted," the Garda Commissioner's monthly report to the Policing Authority states.

The most common category of complaint related to emotional abuse in the homes. There were 17 such complaints.

There were 14 complaints of sexual abuse, 16 of illegal adoptions or falsified birth certificates and seven of physical abuse or mistreatment.

There have also been 13 complaints relating to potentially illegal medical treatments or vaccine trials being carried out on residents and four relating to baby deaths and burials.

Five complaints were categorised as “other crimes” such as theft or state corruption and in nine cases no specific offence was disclosed.

The report states GNPSB members are continuing to engage “with persons impacted by issues associated with mother and baby homes” and that this engagement “has proven positive, and appears to be a source of reassurance and comfort for those concerned”.

The flow of new complaints appears to have stopped. The most recent complaints were made in December when detectives received four reports from Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.

Historical nature

A Garda source said on Friday that due to the historical nature of the complaints and the difficulty in identifying potential offenders and victims, it may turn out that no prosecutions are brought in relation to the homes.

Officers from the GNPSB’s sexual crime management unit have selected 10 sample cases from the 85 complaints for review. After re-evaluation, they determined that in nine cases the complaint was made by a third party and gardaí were unable to locate the victim despite extensive efforts. In one case gardaí have identified a victim but have yet to make contact, the report states.

A primary concern for the Garda and Tusla is that potential abusers may continue to pose a risk to children today.

The commission’s report said it found no evidence of sexual abuse within the 14 institutions it examined. However, it detailed multiple instances of girls becoming pregnant while they were underage before being sent to the homes.