HSE failed in child rape-claim case, says Ombudsman

Ombudsman for Children says HSE labelling of mother as ‘difficult’ lay behind failures

The HSE failed to provide timely support and therapeutic services over several years to a child who made multiple allegations of rape, the Ombudsman for Children has found.

In a report published today, Emily Logan said the HSE failed to allocate a social worker and did not arrange an early face-to-face meeting with the child, which contributed to the fact that no HSE interview ultimately took place.

Such failure may amount to negligence, the Ombudsman stated.

The 11-year-old girl alleged multiple instances of severe child abuse between December 2006 and July 2007, including repeated instances of violent rape combined with death threats and assault with a knife.

Ms Logan said the HSE cited an unfilled vacancy for its non-allocation of a social worker, and did not prioritise the child because she was not living in close proximity to the abuser. When the girl requested she be seen by a woman examiner - rather than a male - the HSE took a further two months to find one.

When the HSE finally arranged to interview the child, she insisted on her mother attending - against health service protocols which dictate she should be interviewed alone.

The Ombudsman cited a lack of flexibility in this area, saying solutions could be found such as placing parent and child in separate rooms divided by glass.

In the event, the HSE “very much blamed the mother for this interview not happening”. The mother subsequently sought psychiatric intervention privately which “to this day” is the only form of therapeutic intervention the girl had received.

Ms Logan said that, although the HSE denied it, central to the mismanagement of the case was its labelling of the girl’s mother “difficult and challenging”.

“It’s my view that this was an impediment to the child being interviewed and having access to therapeutic support. It’s not acceptable to say this child’s parent is difficult, which means we can’t work with her… They allowed the dispute to get in the way of the service the child should have received.”

The Director of Public Prosecutions decided in June 2010 not to prosecute in the case.

Asked whether the absence of the HSE interview contributed to the decision, Ms Logan said she didn’t have the authority to comment on prosecutions. But “there are many cases where there has not been a prosecution; that does not mean the abuse did not take place”.