One in Four today warmly welcomes the publication of the first Report by Dr. Conor O’Mahony, Special Rapporteur on Child Protection.  In the section on child sexual abuse, Dr O’Mahony provides a timely overview of the legislative and policy framework underpinning the State’s obligations to investigate complaints and mitigate risks to children. He considers the many challenges that remain in developing a child protection system that prioritises the safety of children.  In particular he considers the difficulties faced by adult survivors of child sexual abuse in engaging with a Tusla child protection investigation that fails to balance the rights of the accused person with the danger of re-traumatising the adult survivor.

CEO Maeve Lewis says: “The Special Rapporteur recognises that Tusla social workers are placed in an invidious position in that they are both the assessor and adjudicator of any complaints of child sexual abuse. Unlike the Gardaí, who can adopt a sensitive, victim friendly approach to an investigation because it is the Criminal Courts who will decide the issue, social workers are constrained by lack of legislative clarity and a series of High Court judgments. They are required to “stress-test” the adult survivor’s account in ways that may re-traumatise a vulnerable person or indeed deter them from coming forward in the first place.”

Maeve Lewis continues: “Dr. O’Mahony recommends that new legislation be enacted that would clearly prioritise conflicting rights so as to ensure the safety of children.  He advocates that Tusla social workers continue to investigate complaints but the National Vetting Bureau would make decisions as to what action to take.  He also proposes that the Victims of Crime Act 2017 be extended to include Tusla so that the protections afforded to victims of sexual abuse engaging in the criminal justice system be extended to survivors engaging in child protection investigations.”

Maeve Lewis ends: “This is a complicated area and urge interested parties read Dr O’Mahony’s clear and cogent Report. Children who are sexually abused often do not tell until they reach the safety of adulthood.   The testimony of adult survivors plays a crucial role in protecting today’s children. One in Four calls on Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman and Minister for Justice Helen McEntee to conduct a joint review of the current situation and to swiftly implement the recommendations of this Report.