Thursday, September 16, 2010

Association of Irish Priests / Safeguarding Children

The newly formed Association of Irish Priests had its first meeting yesterday. It is reported that the organisation will campaign for the rights of priests who have been wrongly accused of child sexual abuse who have not been supported by their diocese and priests who have been left in “limbo situations” where their right to natural justice is denied.

The Catholic Church’s child protection guidelines, Safeguarding Children, make it very clear that when an allegation of the abuse of a child is made against a priest or any other person working within the Catholic Church that person is entitled to the support of an Adviser appointed by the Bishop or other Religious Superior. That person is supposed to support the accused person as detailed below.

It is of great concern to me to learn from the Association of Irish Priests that Safeguarding Children is not being implemented in this regard as it raises the very obvious question: In what other ways is Safeguarding Children not being implemented?

Safeguarding Children, Resource 1 Section 3:
Each Bishop or Religious Superior should appoint an Adviser to be available to the respondent. Advisers shall represent the needs of the respondent to the Church Authority and assist, where appropriate, with the care of the respondent and with communication between the respondent, the Designated Officer and the Church authority / Church organisation. The respondent’s adviser shall not be the respondent’s therapist or spiritual adviser.

Advisers should be particularly alert to the sense of isolation and vulnerability which a respondent may experience following an allegation of this nature. He or she will:

 Accompany, if so requested, and be available after the respondent’s meeting with the Church authority and the Designated Officer.
 Inform the respondent of his or her right to obtain advice in both in civil and canon law.
 Indentify any therapeutic or other needs of the respondent and suggest how these may be met.
 Consider the wishes of the respondent in regard to a pastoral response by the Church to his or her family.
 Be available to the respondent throughout the inquiry process, and thereafter as required.
 Ensure that the respondent is kept informed of developments in regard to the inquiry.
 Represent the needs and wishes of the respondent to the Designated Officer, as required.

Advisers should receive appropriate training. Under no circumstances should the same Support Person be provided for the child or adult making the allegation/ disclosure of abuse and for the respondent.

END 16/09/2010

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Monitor / Support Sex Offenders

Tonight the Sunday Times claims that tomorrow it will reveal the whereabouts of convicted rapist Larry Murphy who was released from prison recently. It is not the first time newspapers have taken to revealing such details about such offenders but I don’t think it’s the job of media to monitor sex offenders. That is the responsibility of the State and it is imperative that we all insist that Government rises to this responsibility.

The monitoring and support of convicted sex offenders in Ireland is almost non-existent. Sex offenders who have served their sentences are generally released into the community without supervision, though some may be under the supervision of the Probation and Welfare Service. The requirements of the Sex Offenders Act 2001 do not mean that there is any real supervision. ... and that’s not just my view, they are the words of Judge Yvonne Murphy in the Murphy Report.

There is an urgent need for changes to this system to be made ...

• There is no actual sex offenders’ register. Released offenders simply notify the Gardai of their intended residential address. A multi-agency approach to the support and monitoring of released offenders must be developed along with a more stringent regime of signing on procedures with regular personal visits to Garda stations by released offenders.

• All convicted sex offenders should be considered High Risk on release and should be monitored & supported accordingly. All such offenders should be subject to a Post Release Supervision Order which should be put in place at the time the offender is being released and not at the time of sentencing which is currently the case.

• Those responsible for monitoring sex offenders should have the powers and the resources to make regular unannounced visits to the homes of released sex offenders.

• Monitoring of sex offenders should include polygraph testing, electronic tagging, curfews and other restrictions, for example an offender who only ever abuses children after he/she has taken alcohol should have it as a condition of their release that they don’t consume alcohol.

• Parents and Guardians should be able to register a concern with authorities about any individual who has access to their children about whom they are genuinely worried and in some cases it should be possible for them to be told if such an individual is a known sex offender or not. This measure is already being rolled out in the UK, having being piloted to great effect over the last eighteen months the pilot scheme in four counties saw one in ten calls to police uncover evidence of a criminal past. Out of 315 applications for information from concerned parents, details of 21 paedophiles were revealed, these were sex offenders known to the authorities who were putting themselves in a position of having access to children again, and they were stopped because those parents could register their concerns and access this information.

• Finally, It is not appropriate to offer shorter sentences to offenders who participate in treatment programmes in prison, as the current Justice Minister has proposed – those who don’t participate voluntarily should be considered very high risk on release and should be monitored accordingly.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Bethany House

The Irish Government has repeatedly refused to allow Bethany Home, which was a combined children's home, maternity home & detention centre in Dublin, to be included in the list of qualifying Institutions for the Residential Institutions Redress Scheme. This deprives survivors of the opportunity to present their cases to the Redress Board and seek some semblance of justice and compensation for abuse suffered while they were children there.

I fully support calls from the Bethany House Survivors Group for an inquiry into the activities there and for survivors to be allowed to take their cases to the Redress Board.

Today’s Irish Independent reports that:

Almost 220 unmarked graves for forgotten babies who died in a Protestant children's home were discovered, it was claimed today. An academic revealed there was a shocking number of infant deaths at the Bethany Home in Rathgar over a 47 year period after he widened his trawl of cemetery records. On Monday, former residents of the facility, the Bethany Survivors Group, will call on Government ministers to include them in the redress scheme for victims of institutional abuse.

Lecturer Niall Meehan claimed officials ignored high death rates at the home in the 1930s and instead deflected complaints by turning the issue into a religious squabble. "The state did little or nothing about reported increases in illness and mortality during the 1935 to 1939 period, though it was brought to the attention of the Dept of Local Government and Public Health by its own inspectors," he said.

"Government knew the facility was insufficient and did nothing concrete to remedy it."
Bethany Home was a combined children's home, maternity home and detention centre for female convicts which closed in 1972.

In May, Mr Meehan discovered 40 unmarked Bethany graves at the Mount Jerome Cemetery in Harold's Cross after consulting documents from the institution and the cemetery. Survivors are campaigning for a monument to remember the babies, who died at an average age of three months to a year.

The Griffith College Dublin lecturer said he since found evidence of another 179 graves for the period 1922 to 1949. More than a third of the total - 86 - died over a five year period from 1935.

The highest mortality rate was recorded in 1936 when 29 babies were buried.
Mr Meehan said records from Bethany Home also showed there could be another 30 forgotten babies in another graveyard.

"It's a terrible indictment on Irish society that so many children were destined to be forgotten and not considered important enough to be acknowledged," he said.

"They were just put in the ground in an unmarked common grave and forgotten about forever.

"Think about these human beings and how terrible it was for their mothers."