Investigation into St John Ambulance abuse making ‘good progress’

Sixth man claims he was sexually abused as a youth by former senior volunteer

An investigation into historical child sex abuse in the voluntary paramedic organisation, St John Ambulance, is making "good progress", with a significant number of interviews having been carried out to date.

Child law expert Dr Geoffrey Shannon is leading the independent review into the past abuse, which was announced last March.

In recent correspondence to one abuse survivor, Dr Shannon said he had conducted “a large number of interviews” before Christmas, and was “making good progress with the review”.

Interviews with survivors, and current and former volunteers took place over November and December and are continuing this month.

“I am committed to producing a comprehensive report and am seeking all available information before concluding the review,” Dr Shannon wrote.

Initially it was expected the review would be completed by the start of this year, but he said it was now hoped a report would be completed in the next six months.

“Once we receive all the documentation and complete all the interviews, I hope to be able to conclude the report as soon as possible,” he said.

The review was commissioned by the organisation after The Irish Times reported that several men had allegedly been sexually abused by a senior figure in the organisation’s Old Kilmainham division in Dublin in the 1990s.

The individual, now aged in his 80s, was a member of the organisation from the 1950s until at least 2000, leaving under pressure to resign after one survivor reported the alleged abuse.

‘Groomed’

In recent weeks, a sixth alleged victim told The Irish Times he was also abused as a child by the former senior volunteer. The alleged abuse started at St John Ambulance in the late 1960s when he was about 10 years old and continued for a number of years.

The man did not wish to be named as he has never told his elderly mother about the alleged abuse. He said that as a child he “didn’t have an awful lot of self-confidence” and that the alleged perpetrator was seen as a “brilliant” man by the local community.

“I was vulnerable, I was groomed,” he said. “He’d always be dropping everybody home in the car . . . I was always last with him in the car, and then certain things would happen,” he said. Often he said the senior volunteer would drive him to isolated locations, such as building sites, where the alleged sexual abuse would take place.

“When you don’t know any different, you actually think these things are normal.”

The alleged perpetrator also took him and a number of other youth members away on weekend trips to a caravan in Co Wicklow, where alcohol would be supplied, he said.

The alleged victim said he reported the matter to gardaí sometime in the mid-2000s, outlining in detail the alleged abuse to a detective sergeant who investigated sexual crimes.

He recalls being told at the time any case was unlikely to go forward, due to the amount of time that had passed and lack of evidence.

In a November 22nd, 2021, letter to Coleman Legal Partners, the man's lawyers, Assistant Garda Commissioner Patrick Clavin said this previous statement could not be found following a search of their records.

The letter said the detective sergeant, who has since retired from the force, “was previously contacted in this matter”, but could not recall taking a statement from the alleged victim.