ONE IN FOUR – THE NEXT SCANDAL?

In February, following the GARDA INSPECTORATE REVIEW ON GARDA RESPONSES TO CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE One in Four expressed concerns about untrained and inexperienced gardaí being the chief investigator in child sexual abuse cases. We’re also aware that in May the Garda Representative Association informed that no training is provided for its members in the investigations of sexual offences. While this is a special pleading by the GRA to give cover to one of its members, One in Four has been aware of this alleged inadequacy for well over a decade.

On 23rd May 2008 Stephen Kershaw made a written statement of alleged sexual abuse in its offices to a garda in the presence of one of its staff members. When Stephen Kershaw, after making his statement, asked the garda whether he believed him the garda replied that he did. This response should have rang alarm bells for the One in Four staff member present. Why? Because it breached the Garda Policy on the Investigation of Sexual Offences which provides that the investigating member will at all times display a positive, helpful and non-judgemental attitude. Telling a person making a statement that he is being believed is being judgemental – the very thing that is prohibited. In addition, the One in Four staff member may have known that Stephen Kershaw made a contradictory statement in 2000. But we don’t know if One in Four knew of the existence of this statement. Readers are aware by now that One in Four has refused to say whether it knew of the 2000 statement. What did the staff member do when the exchange between Stephen Kershaw and the investigating garda was heard? Nothing. There was no immediate intervention. Nor was there any subsequent effort to bring this questionable exchange to the attention of the Garda Authorities. This was an extraordinary omission. So the expression of concern by One in Four 10 years later is quite surprising.

What is the duty of One in Four in such circumstances? It is not sufficient to do nothing. By staying silent it becomes party to a flawed garda investigation which may lead to a wrongful conviction. It is of no legal consequences for One in Four to tell a client that it believes him or her, but it’s a totally different matter for a garda to do so where this is done in the presence of a staff member of One in Four that places an obligation on the organisation to reveal that event. The deliberate suppression of such a critical fact in a criminal investigation may amount to a number of criminal offences, including perverting the course of justice?

The question is: in how many other cases did a similar suppression by One in Four occur which resulted in convictions? Dozens? Hundreds? Thousands?

Is this the next scandal waiting to be exposed in the mainstream media?