No criminal charges following investigation into ‘Grace’ abuse case

DPP directs no charges despite Garda recommendation

No one will face prosecution in relation to the mistreatment of “Grace”, an intellectually disabled woman who was left in a foster home for two decades despite concerns about physical and sexual abuse.

On Monday, Garda Headquarters confirmed the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has directed that no criminal charges be brought following a lengthy investigation.

When it submitted its investigative file to the DPP’s office in 2020, the Garda attached a recommendation that criminal charges should be brought.

However, the final decision rests with the DPP, meaning there will be no criminal prosecution unless substantial new evidence comes to light.

"An Garda Síochána completed an investigation and submitted a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions," a Garda spokeswoman said.

“The Director of Public Prosecutions has directed no criminal charges in this investigation. An Garda Síochána does not comment on or confirm speculation on the contents of correspondence with the office of the DPP.”

The case has been the subject of a number of the Garda investigations for more than a decade as well as other inquiries and reviews, most recently by barrister Marjorie Farrelly.

After gardaí investigated the alleged role played by some individuals in the abuse of the woman, known only by the pseudonym Grace, and others in foster care in the southeast, a major inquiry commenced into a wider range of issues relating to the case.

These included warning signs that were missed or not acted on and how Grace was abused and neglected for years despite a decision to move her and concerns for her welfare.

The Inquiry into Protected Disclosures, SU1 report, completed in 2012 but published in 2017, investigated allegations of physical and sexual abuse involving Grace in a foster home in the southeast.

Adoption

She was born to a “single mother” who intended to place her for adoption, the report stated. However, there were complications at birth and she was diagnosed with severe intellectual disability and microcephaly. As a result, the adoption did not proceed.

She was placed on a number of short-term placements in different parts of Ireland before being placed full time with a foster family in the southeast in 1989, when she was 10.

She was to remain with this family – the father died in 2001 – for 20 years until July 2009, when she was removed from the foster home by the HSE.

The report, published in 2017, charted various concerns that were flagged about her condition over these years and the discussions among social care staff about her case.

In 1995, for example, her hips and arms were found to be bruised. While in day services, “she completely stripped herself for no apparent reason”. Her behaviour was described as “chaotic” and she took to “head butting” other trainees. There was no evidence the bruising was investigated.

By 1996, an allegation of sexual abuse involving another resident had been received and Grace’s behaviour had become more agitated. A case conference decided to move her but this decision was overturned following an appeal by the foster parents.

The HSE now says this was a “missed opportunity” for action but the report published in 2017 said it was unable to establish a rationale for the decision taken at this time.