Criminal negligence charges may be pursued by Gardai
Gardaí are investigating if they can take a criminal negligence case against health service officials for failing to react to allegations of rape and physical abuse of children and adults with severe intellectual disabilities at a local foster home over a 25-year period.
And both the Taoiseach and Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan are to be briefed on the case, in a bid to ensure it is speedily concluded.
A cross-party Dáil Public Accounts Committee, spearheaded by Fine Gael TD John Deasy, has accused health service managers of failing to act over the complaints, relating to a single foster care family in the region with whom 46 physically and mentally disabled people were placed between 1983 and 2009.
TDs are furious at the HSE, they say, for ‘concocting’ a sequence of events to claim they are fully addressing concerns.
The foster home was usually used by the health services for short-term stays and social workers first raised concerns in 1992.
By 1995, then health service the South Eastern Health Board had ended summer respite and long-term placements at the location. However one individual, who has since been the subject of the Conal Devine investigation, had been residing at the home since 1989 and was left there until 2009.
When she was removed to full-time residential care, the HSE launched the first of three investigations into what happened, which managers were responsible and what disciplinary measures were needed. These reports, including the Devine Report, have cost hundreds of thousands of euro but have never been published. Last year, the Department of Health commissioned a senior counsel review into the case.
It has been alleged that the intellectually disabled and mute girl which was the subject of the Devine Report suffered ‘savage’ sexual, physical and financial abuse during the two decades.
As a result of sexual assault with a blunt instrument, it has been claimed, she was left with damage to her internal organs. It’s been alleged that the girl was trained to assume sexual positions when certain words were spoken and was forced to live in a cubby hole under a stairs.
Late last year, both the PAC and a whistleblower social worker who has repeatedly fought to have the investigative reports published sought the release of the Devine Report.
A significantly curtailed version of the 200-report was subsequently released to the PAC but the HSE has again reiterated claims that it cannot publish its full reports because of ongoing Garda investigations.
Nor will it reveal which managers were responsible or if any disciplinary actions took place. Garda investigations into the allegations have been hampered by the fact that the alleged victim is non verbal.
The HSE has claimed that a formal apology was made to the alleged victim “for the failings identified in the inquiry reports and for the poor care received by those placed with the foster family”. However sources close to the victim say an apology was never given directly.
At the PAC last week, Deputy Deasy accused the HSE of “concocting” a version of the meeting. He said he knew “exactly the tenor and content” of the meeting and claimed the apology never occurred.